By BERNIE BELLAN
Camp Massad Executive Director Danial Sprintz reports that this past summer has been one of the best ever for the Hebrew speaking camp.
“We had 110 kids in the first session – which is the most ever for first session,” Sprintz notes. Usually it’s the second session that’s the more popular of the two sessions offered by the camp, he explains. While the second session also was popular – with 80 kids registered, the number of campers who attended the first session came as quite a surprise.
“We generally average between 85-90 campers a session”, Sprinz says. Another surprise for the camp administration was the large number of kids who elected to attend both the first and second sessions. “At least 50 kids stayed for both sessions,” according to Sprintz.
What helped to boost registration, he adds, is the large number of campers who received subsidies, which were allotted by the Jewish Foundation, the Jewish Federation, and private individuals. “We had 60 kids who were subsidized this year,” Sprintz explains.
Something else that was a first for Massad was having both a camper and a counselor in wheelchairs. The improvements in making the camp fully handicapped accessible reached fruition this summer with the addition of even more ramps which, combined with the new drainage system that was actually installed last year, have made it possible for someone who is wheelchair bound to be able to navigate a campground that, to be perfectly honest, was somewhat of a swamp in years past.
With over $200,000 having been spent on improving the drainage system, although the work took place in the spring of 2015, it wasn’t until this summer that the full effects of that capital investment could be seen. “It took quite a while for the flowers and grass that were planted last summer to take root,” Sprintz explains. That, combined with the landscaping that created “hills and valleys” to aid in drainage, made the constant threat of flooding after any heavy rain a thing of the past.
“With such flat land” where the camp is situated (in Sandy Hook), says Sprintz, “we should be spearheading the movement to make camp accessible for handicapped individuals.” In the same vein, Massad also had another first this summer, with its having an autistic counselor.
I asked Sprintz whether there were other improvements to the camp that might explain its being more popular this summer than any previous summer. He pointed to the new “NBA style basketball nets” (with glass backboards) as being particularly popular among campers. “They were in use almost all day long,” Sprint says.
In addition, the soccer field, which had begun to be revamped toward the end of last summer, was completed in time for the first session. “There was also new floor hockey equipment, a brand new archery facility (courtesy of Stephen and Corky Rosenfield), and a new fire pit,” Sprintz notes.
I asked him whether there were Israeli counselors again – something that has been a long-standing tradition at Massad. “We had five counselors this summer,” Sprintz says. “Four of them actually discovered Massad online” (rather than being recruited by an outside agency, for instance).
Again, because of financial assistance from both the Jewish Foundation and the Jewish Federation, Massad was able to do something that it had never been able to do in the past – which was to outfit a contingent of 11 campers with equipment wholly owned by the camp on a seven-day overnight canoe trip in the Experimental Lakes Area of Lake of the Woods. (In the past, at least some of the equipment would have had to be rented, Sprintz explains – something that always added to the camp’s expenses.)
Sprintz also notes that the three-day Maccabiah event in the first session was supervised by former counselors, including Jonas Chernick, Jason Tapper, and Lainie Filkow. As a mater of fact, Sprintz notes, the Gimli Film Festival had invited Chernick to attend its showing of his most recent film, “Borealis”, but Chernick turned down the offer, saying that he had to be at Maccabiah at Camp Massad instead.
One more change this past season was the involvement of a professional Jewish educator, who was brought in to elevate the religious content of Massad. “We’ve always been very respectful of Jewish observance,” Sprintz says, but it was thought important to increase the knowledge of Jewish religious practices even more among both campers and counsellors.
What other changes might we expect in the future at Massad, I asked Sprintz?
“Well, we’re starting work on renovating the ‘olam’ as soon as the second session ends (August 21). “We’re going to be putting in new windows, doors, and siding – in time for Rosh Hashanah” (when Massad conducts its own very energetic Rosh Hashanah service – this year for the 20th time).
After having raised over $1 million in its capital campaign last year, Camp Massad has undergone a major transformation. What was formerly an experience that, while fun enough, was also somewhat of an endurance test, has now become a beacon for campers who might otherwise have preferred to go to another camp in days past.