Grant Awarded to Kick Off Field-Wide Changes for Special Needs Programming

January 7, 2013 (New York, NY) – Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) is pleased to be the recipient of a research grant to map current services available to children with special needs and physical disabilities at nonprofit Jewish overnight camps across North America.

This will be the first ever research of its kind in the Jewish community and will drive the ultimate goal of making the unparalleled experience of Jewish camp available to all children. Says Jeremy Fingerman, CEO, FJC, “The immersive, joyous environment of Jewish overnight camp builds Jewish identity, strengthens the Jewish community, and fosters Jewish leadership. Unfortunately, many Jewish children with special needs and physical disabilities are unable to benefit from this unparalleled experience due to limited resources and programs.”

Thanks to a generous $60,000 grant from Dr. Allan and Nan Lipton of Hershey, PA, FJC is working with Laszlo Strategies, a firm specializing in helping nonprofit groups champion the causes of medical science and people with physical and developmental disabilities, to survey the field beginning in January 2013. This research will provide a thorough understanding of the options Jewish camps offer to children with special needs and provide a baseline for expanding services. The research will be followed by a convening of the field - both Jewish Camp professionals and special needs experts – to allow FJC to locate the gaps, establish where and how the needs can be filled, and develop a set of guidelines for camps to use as a resource.

A bus tour in July 2012 launched the Foundation’s formal exploration of the issue. Done in conjunction with the Jewish Funders Network, the three-day tour took staff, board members, and potential funders to eight camps in the Northeast to see first-hand the types of programs nonprofit and for-profit camps offer, speak with experts in the field, and discuss options and ideas for next steps.

Many Jewish camps are leaders in accommodating special needs children with inclusive or parallel programs and several camps are able to assess and enroll children with special needs on a case-by-case basis. Even so, although Jewish overnight camps serve nearly 75,000 children each camping season, they are able to accommodate fewer than 1,000 special needs campers every summer; the need is far greater with growing wait lists for many Jewish camps that serve children with disabilities.

This initial research will be the catalyst to exploring the range and types of activities camps could be utilizing to integrate campers with special needs. The project will catalog the language and philosophies used by the field concerning special needs, examine legal issues, determine what steps need to be taken to improve the range of services and expertise of camp staff, and more.

“FJC aspires to enable all children to experience the magic of Jewish camp,” explains Fingerman. “We are committed to exploring and implementing the best and most comprehensive ways of doing so to ensure that we are meeting our vision of ensuring a vibrant Jewish future.”

“We are proud and excited to be working on this project,” says Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Founder & President of Laszlo Strategies. “FJC is data-driven organization that has already proved the importance of Jewish camp to the Jewish community and individuals alike. We aim to help them make it possible for every Jewish child to have the opportunity to experience the life-changing impact of a positive Jewish summer camp experience.”

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The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) is the only public organization dedicated solely to nonprofit Jewish overnight camps. FJC employs a variety of strategies toward a single goal: to increase the number of children in Jewish summer camps. To this end, the Foundation creates inspiring camp leaders, expands access to and intensifies demand for camp, and develops programs to strengthen camps across the Jewish spectrum in North America. Through strategic partnerships on local and national levels, FJC raises the profile of Jewish camp and serves as a central resource for parents and organizations alike. FJC works with more than 150 camps, 70,000 campers, and 10,000 counselors across North America each summer to further its mission. www.jewishcamp.org

Laszlo Strategies helps non-profit organizations in their efforts to champion the causes of people with physical, mental, neurological and developmental disabilities, as well as to promote smart medical science. Laszlo believes that all people, regardless of their differences, have the right to dignity and an opportunity to reach their full potential and achieve their dreams.

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