The Canteen is a tribute to all things Jewish sleepaway camp. Hosted by the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), this blog is written by campers, alumni, parents, and camp professionals and is a place to talk about parenting, camp fun, projects, crafts, recipes, and more – all tied back to Jewish holidays, traditions and, of course, camp!
February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month. Join us as we share stories that highlight the impact of inclusion in our camp communities.
Deep in the Minnesota woods lies a very special place where children of all abilities have spent their summers developing a connection to Jewish values, experiencing the magic of the outdoors and learning the power of a community made of diverse individuals.
In 1984, Camp Butwin implemented a formally structured inclusion program that has been able to serve up to 75 campers with special needs each summer. Over the years, our inclusion program has continued to progress and adapt to meet the needs of the community we serve. Last summer, as we strolled around camp, we reflected on what makes us proud of whom we are.
You know you’re at Camp Butwin when…
1. You’re wrapped in a culture where all campers’ abilities and differences are celebrated on a daily basis.
2. You cheer on all of your friends, regardless of their everyday mobility needs, as you watch them soar on the zip line.
3. When you see a young adult with disabilities in our Club Kulanu program get up, the whole camp gets up on their feet during our ruach-filled Z’mirot (songs).
4. You’re a CIT and you receive multiple experiential trainings on best practices on inclusion, so that your future generation of counselors can build upon the progress Butwin has made in the realm of inclusion. You leave the summer feeling well equipped to make society as a whole a more inclusive place.
5. Everyone gets practice pitching a tent on our 4-day canoe trip down the St. Croix River.
6. Not only do you have access to 20 dedicated inclusion staff, but also you know that all counselors are there to make the magic of camp happen.
7. Your camp gets frequent visits from different organizations such as the Autism Society, Epilepsy Foundation and Highland Friendship Club!
8. During Friday Program, Jane, a Club Kulanu participant, teaches you how to do the giant ring toss.
9. You’ve never been to camp before, but by the end of the summer, your campmates have become your lifelong cheerleaders.
10. You work at camp and receive Thank You notes like this:
“I wanted to thank you. Your communication, organization, and flexibility are so greatly appreciated. Jane just ADORES all of you and coming to camp. It truly is the highlight of her summers, if not her life! The other kids there are so incredible and so good to her. Words cannot describe how that feels, and my husband and I are so grateful to you and all the staff at Butwin, who are genuinely happy to see her every day, and for being such inspirational role models to the “typical” kids who treat Jane like one of them.
I have so many pictures of Jane in the middle of a circle of kids, who are all engaging her, or sitting with older kids who read to her, or stories of her being cheered on or encouraged by peers to do something or to feel successful upon completing something new.So anyways, thank you form the bottom of our hearts for all you do- Butwin is truly a magical place and we are SO happy Jane is a part of it.” –Camp Butwin Parent
Sarah Fedorowicz Nelson is the director of Camp Butwin and Summer 2017 will be her 4th year in this role. Sarah grew up attending Camp Butwin and working as a counselor there through college. Sarah holds a B.A. from Coe College in Iowa and worked in the social work field managing group homes and Independent Living Services before rejoining the JCC team in 2013. Sarah is very passionate about inclusion and believes that every child deserves to have the opportunity to run, play and learn in the great outdoors. She believes strongly that camp gives children the important opportunity to create their own special place, separate from school and family. Among her other duties at the St. Paul JCC are Youth and Family Services Director and Director of the Lodge on the Lake.
Leah Wing was the Inclusion and Accessibility Coordinator at Camp Butwin from 2012-2016. Leah holds a B.S. from the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota. Leah believes that every child, regardless of ability, deserves to have a wonderful camp experience. Leah’s role included managing our unique young-adult Club Kulanu camp program, guiding our talented Inclusion Facilitators, and coordinating our outside rentals for the summer.