BY MICHAEL GAFFIN
When I was younger, my parents would never allow me to go to sleep away camp
because they just didn’t want “their little Mikey” to leave their side. That all changed
one Friday night at temple when our good friend Sharon Ball, whose children had both
gone to Surprise Lake Camp, finally said to my mom, “Sherry, cut the cord! Let him go
to sleep away camp”! My parents decided to let me go, and that decision changed my
In August I returned home from spending my fifth summer at Surprise Lake Camp.
For the past fi ve years, sleep away camp has practically been my second home. I have
made so many new friends who will almost certainly be the friends I stay in touch with
for the rest of my life. Sleep away camp is a very magical place where you can learn
so many new and exciting things just from being there. Growing up, I had never really
been away from home for a long period of time. Over the past five summers, one of
the things I’ve learned is how to take care of myself. At camp, you generally live with
three or four other individuals. Over time, I have discovered how to get along better
with others and how problems can be resolved when they occur.
There are numerous benefi ts of going to a Jewish sleep away camp. Being in that
environment has really improved my understanding of Judaism. For example, I studied
holidays and customs that I didn’t even know existed. Mostly everywhere you go
today, Jewish people are a minority. At a Jewish camp, there is always one thing you
have in common with the kids, your religion! It is amazing how having that one thing
in common makes such a big difference on how you relate to other things. I’ll admit,
as much as I love my school friends, I have a much better connection with my camp
friends. And as much as I enjoy hanging out with my school friends, I’d much rather be
with my camp friends.
My parents’ decision to let me go to sleep away camp is one of the best things that
has ever happened to me. My Jewish camping experiences are something that I will
never forget. The memories will last me a lifetime! I was fortunate enough to be
able to attend Surprise Lake Camp because of the generosity of my grandparents and
scholarships from Surprise Lake Camp and the Jewish Federation of Greater Orange
County. Without them, my camping experiences would not have been possible. It is
because of my attendance at Jewish sleep away camp that I have grown into the young
man that I am today.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County offers several different scholarships
for Jewish summer camping, whether it is sleep away or day camp. The deadline is
March 31st for the summer of 2013. Visit our website, jewishorangeny.org to download
ABOUT MIKE GAFFIN: Mike and his parents are active members of Temple Beth Shalom in Florida, NY.
Mike is a junior at Warwick Valley High School, where he is a member of the Cross Country & Track Teams.
He enjoys playing basketball and baseball as well. Mike is looking forward to another fun fi lled summer at
Surprise Lake Camp. Next summer, he hopes to be a staff member!
Where in a summer can you build
relationships that last a lifetime?
We want your child to be one happy camper this summer!
JEWISH SUMMER CAMPING IS A MAGICAL EXPERIENCE
BY MICHAEL GAFFIN