By: Chaya Feldstein
I’ve been looking forward to the sixth annual Camp HASC Experience Day since the beginning of the summer. It is an invitation that unifies Klal Yisroel; staff families, friends, and neighbors from varying communities are invited to witness what occurs on a day to day basis in one of the most miraculous places where many firsts occur. I marked my calendar as soon as the day was announced and was determined to embrace the fun filled day without yet knowing the schedule of events. Thankfully, I was in for another wonderfully packed day with loads of laughter, heartfelt smiles and fun!
A friend of mine graciously invited me to her summer home for the Shabbos before the day, nearby in the Catskills. I enjoyed a wonderful Shabbos and eagerly awaited a glorious Sunday; I was especially grateful when I awoke to a gorgeous sunny day even though I knew that at Camp HASC it would be shining and radiating regardless of the forecast.
Another friend, also in a nearby bungalow colony and first time special education teacher at Camp HASC, was eager to take her family to the experience day and warmly extended a ride offer to me. The anticipation mounted as we drove into the parking lot filled with professional and welcoming Camp HASC staff directing traffic. As we walked alongside Parksville Road and saw the cars that filled the parking spaces on the road, we marveled at the crowd as it was only 10:15 on a Sunday morning! We were greeted yet again by the street security and were wished a wonderful and enjoyable day. As we walked through the camp’s gates, we reached a warm welcoming committee placed under the special tent set up for the occasion, that brought smiles to our faces and ensured to us that the day would be an astounding one! We were offered magnets, pens, water bottles and a schedule of events. On another table, there were blank name tags and various color necklaces to wear with them.
Then I turned…and saw my sister Gitty’s priceless smile that Camp HASC encapsulates, and I could only hope that all those who make this possible for her, and all the other precious holy souls, would see this firsthand. It is one thing to read about it in this article but it is an entirely different dimension when you experience it firsthand. Some feelings, no matter how strong and vocal cannot be felt in words but only measured in the expanding heart that makes you feel so incredible every time you think of the experience. In a nutshell, that is Camp HASC.
Still standing holding my precious sister’s hand, feeling my heart fill with that overwhelming emotion that I’m so familiar with, as it touches me to the core each time I step into those gates, I was happily surprised to notice my niece and her family walk by. I said to her, “I didn’t know you were coming.” Without a moment’s hesitation, she said, “Of course, we come every year!” While they and I look forward to the stupendous events taking place, it is the precious smile of my beloved sister and the love she and her family are surrounded by from her counselors and staff that act as the oxygen of Camp HASC; that is what brings me back year after year.
The schedule included all sorts of fun activities: face painting, rides including a moonwalk, horseback riding, as well as cotton candy and snow cone stations. At noon, a spectacular lunch was served in a gym decorated with vibrant balloons. The food presentation was that of a simcha. A spread with assorted prepackaged salads, a sushi bar, hot food (baked ziti, fettuccini alfredo, mini pizza, blintzes), various wraps, J&J iced coffee as well as assorted lemonade flavored drinks and a dessert booth that featured a choice of about eight flavors of ice cream was amazing! The last part of the day was a concert set up outdoors with emcee par excellence Nachum Segal of JM in the AM and the NSN Network, and special performers: Meilich Kohn, Mordechai Shapiro, Simcha Leiner and Benny Friedman accompanied by Yochi Briskman and his orchestra and the Mezamrim Choir. The ultimate highlight, truth be told, was watching the campers on stage, the dancing and the off key solos by the stars that make up Camp HASC, their prized campers. Although I was truly enticed by the fun filled day and the lunch, what draws me back to Camp HASC is the love and unity that it breeds.
The siyata dishmaya that Camp Hasc is comprised of is apparent. They look at my sister as a true friend, “She helps you to be yourself,” “She brings out the best in you,” “I call her and dance with her when I’m in a bad mood, she cheers me up.” The selflessness, devoted care and pure unadulterated love is ahavas Yisroel at its peak and a model for us all to emulate. Perhaps another interpretation of HASC: HASC stands for Hasidic, Ashkenazi, Sefardi, Chiloni! It doesn’t matter what you are and which segment or group you are part of. If you are a Yid, you are included!
Another attendee realized an additional phenomenon of mentschlichkeit that HASC defines. There was absolutely no pushing or shoving even though there was not an inch of space due the incredible crowd. It was clear that the sole purpose of the attendees was to be a part of Camp HASC for just a day. The kiddush Hashem that stemmed forth is sure to bring Mashiach.
The music stopped at around 2:15 p.m. and it was time to say goodbye. That was the most difficult thing to do the entire day…to have to leave Camp HASC’s loving encirclement and travel back to the city. My heart swells with pride as I reflect on the day’s events and all who make it possible.