Meet Ariel, One Happy Camper

Tags: Teens, Kids, Family, Partners

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Multiple disabilities, including cerebral palsy, do not stop 19-year-old Ariel from being happy but returning home from Jewish summer camp does. He loves being outdoors, enjoys swimming, and is most excited when he listens to Hebrew songs and prayers during Shabbat at camp. Away from this amazing and special Jewish environment, Ariel feels a little lost.

“We try our best to return some of that excitement by getting him back into Jewish summer camp every year," said his mom, Joy. “But camps are so expensive; last summer, we couldn't think of a way how it would work for us.”

That’s when the Rabbi at their local synagogue– a 45-minute drive from their home– told Joy about the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Michael and Anita Siegal One Happy Camper Program, established in partnership with the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland (JECC). The program provides incentive grants for first time–and sometimes second time– campers from small communities who wish to attend a Jewish summer camp.

Each year, our Federation helps send over 6,700 kids to summer camps locally and around the globe. Research shows that when children return home from Jewish summer camp they have a deepened connection to Jewish life and culture and have developed friendships that will last their lifetimes.

“When Ariel was at camp last summer, he was so excited and proud of himself,” said Joy. “It’s been a real blessing!”

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