Writer Rachi Levy, left, with her sister Rivki before heading to Camp HASC for a meaningful summer. Courtesy of Rachi Levy
“What are you doing this summer?” That is one of the questions I hate the most. Summer’s meant to be relaxing. Who cares what I’m doing this summer? So what if I’m spending my day in pajamas or relaxing on the beach?
I’ve never gone to camp. The past few summers I have kept busy by babysitting and working at day camps or doing random things. To me those summers were jam-packed. Whether it was babysitting, playing with my little brother or going to shiurim, Jewish lectures, I always found something worthwhile to occupy my time. To others that’s not how it seemed. My friends all came back from the summer with amazing camp stories, and I came back with nothing too special. If I really wanted to go to camp my parents would let me, but I’ve never had the desire. Until this year.
After watching the music video of Yaakov Shwekey’s new single, “I Can Be”, I had this strong feeling that I wanted to work at a camp. Not just any camp, though, I wanted to work at Camp HASC. Camp HASC is a sleepaway program in the Catskills for children and adults with special needs and physical and intellectual disabilities.
Shwekey’s song has a powerful message: “I can be stronger, I can braver, I can be anything I want to be.” His music video shows adorable, special-needs children holding up signs and smiling real smiles. I knew that I wanted to be the person to put the smiles on the kids’ faces. Everyone I spoke with who worked at Camp HASC had an incredible experience — not only did they impact a child’s life, but they also had the experience of a lifetime. They grew in Torah ways and came back a changed person. That is why I want to work at Camp HASC. I want to make a difference in a special child’s life while at the same time changing my life. I have always had a passion for chesed and for doing good deeds for other people, and HASC seemed the perfect place to take my passion to a new level.
Applying was a relatively easy process. I found the “Apply Summer 2016” button on HASC’s website and answered a few questions. Once I submitted my application I received an email about an interview. At that time I was living in St. Louis, so my interview was conducted via Skype. I was nervous because I really wanted to work at HASC, and I know lots of people apply for a limited number of staff positions. My nervousness was for nothing because my interviewer was the nicest person. She wasn’t intimidating at all. A few months later I got an email that said I was hired to work at HASC.
Excited nervousness is the best way to describe my feelings. I am definitely very excited to be working there, but at the same time a little bit nervous. I’m not going with any friends, which will make the first few weeks challenging. However, I’m excited to do something amazing with my summer and finally have some camp stories to share with my friends.