Camp visiting day is a highlight of the summer for many families. Eager parents wake up extra early on these Sunday mornings and load their minivans with care packages and special treats. On the way, they reminisce about their own camp experiences, and count down the minutes until their families are reunited.
For camps that are not close to home, some families spend Shabbat at hotels closer to their visiting-day destinations. For example, at Camp Mesorah, over the years, both spontaneous and formal parent shabbatons have been held, at a hotel adjacent to the Binghamton University campus and its nearby Chabad House.
Upon arrival at camp, the Disney-esque dance of parking cars is orchestrated by counselors and staff spouses, as the ballfields begin to resemble a Honda dealer’s lot. Families line up with wagons and carts bearing needed supplies, presents and food, waiting for the rope drop.
Sarra Lorbert, New Rochelle resident and Camp Lavi division head for pre- and lower Gurim, stated, “It is so exciting to see all the children lined up and patiently waiting for their parents to arrive. It was so enjoyable to watch the parents with so many packages in their hands running to reunite with their children.”
“The gates open at 10 a.m. and I get there by 9:45 the latest. I need to be one of the first ones there!” explained Cheryl Gold of White Plains, who visited her daughter Sydney at Camp Nesher. “When we get there, we wait for our daughter to find us at the front of camp. They call the names of the campers on the loudspeakers and all the bunkmates cheer her on as she runs to see her parents.” Gold divulged, “I usually bring Sydney candy and special treats like her autograph pillow, and for the last few years I’ve been bringing her a piñata filled with special treats for her fellow bunkmates. This becomes a fun activity for her to do with her friends after I leave that night when she is sad.”
The Buchweitz family of New Rochelle also arrives early, to Camp Moshava. They pack their car with plenty of food, especially the OSEM instant soups. Tamar Buchweitz explained that every visiting day includes a trip to Walmart. “We try to do activities available at camp, but we usually get closed out of the ones we want to do and end up making pita.” Buchweitz remembered, “Last year we showed up to camp to find out our son had lost all his socks the first week of camp.” Buchweitz summed up, saying that the highlight of visiting day is “seeing my son, and seeing how happy my kids are to see each other.”
The Schanzer family visits both Camp Moshava and Camp Nesher. “I plan to be there 20 minutes early!” boasted Michelle Schanzer. “The highlight is definitely seeing my kids run to me, or waiting at the top of the hill at Moshava.” Schanzer explained that their day is filled with activities such as rope climbing and cooking and, of course, shopping at Walmart. Schanzer recounted that their favorite visiting-day story was “a bear crossing in front of our car on the way back from Walmart—that was memorable!”
The Farkas family of New Rochelle also tries to arrive early to Camp Moshava. “We usually wait in line for 30-plus minutes, “Dee Dee Farkas explained. “The line is so long to get in, by the time we make it over to see our kids they always want to know why we’re late!” An added bonus for some parents is the chance to reunite with many of their own friends. However, Farkas stated, “I don’t notice anyone else at visiting day; I’m so focused on hugging my kids.”
Ellie Goldenberg and her family visit Camp Morasha. “We always arrive early. We wait as if we’re at the starting point of a marathon. Then, everyone races to find their children,” described Goldenberg. “We take our beach cart with us. It’s big enough to hold everything we need to bring to our children, as well as our pop up chairs and food for the day. Visiting day is a relaxing day to catch up with our kids and spend quality time with them.”
As visiting day comes to a close, many families start their heart-wrenching, tearful goodbyes, while other kids beg to stay a second month. The reverse trek begins, with the anticipation of their loved ones’ return home in the coming weeks, as well as next summer’s opening day.
By Judy Berger