Our 15-year-old son Eliezer suffers from Bipolar Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is the oldest of our 5 children. Having a strong Jewish identity and a Jewish education is very important to our family. Due to his condition, Eliezer needs to attend a public school outside of the Jewish community in Baltimore City, which is geared toward meeting the needs of students with emotional disabilities. Eliezer thrives in this environment, but misses out on having a strong Jewish education and as a result, summer camp is his only opportunity to connect to his Jewish identity.
Last year he had an amazing opportunity to attend Camp Chaverim for three weeks. Chaverim is a Jewish inclusion camp for male's ages 8-25 located in the Catskills Mountains. This was his first time away from home and even though we were very nervous at first to send him, his experience was incredibly positive. He got the opportunity to meet new people and grow both spiritually and physically. Camp Chaverim specializes in helping young adults like our Eliezer find their strengths and build on them. The camp quickly realized how bright our son is and his great math abilities. Eliezer was given the jobs of working in the coffee shop and running the entire canteen by himself. He was responsible for stocking shelves, handling money, and all other aspects of running the canteen. When we picked him up we were crying tears of joy, so happy to see that he not only had a great time, but also for the first time had made friends. He felt confident in himself and felt great about his role in camp. He has been looking forward to seeing those friends again all year, and is counting down for camp again.
As you can imagine, a camp like this, with the one on one time and attention our son needs is very expensive. The cost is $5200 for the six-week experience. My husband and I would love for Eliezer to be able to go back to camp more than anything. We hope to be able to send him for the full six-week session so he could continue to grow and thrive. A great sage once said that Jewish camp could do more for a child than an entire year in school. We saw this with our own eyes and we want to give this opportunity to our dear son.
More Information about Camp Chaverim: http://www.njcd.org/summer-programs/camper-programs/
An article written by Eliezer's mother about raising their son: http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/690437/jewish/Raising-a-Child-with-Bipolar-Disorder.htm
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