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Camp Aim

CAMP AIM was established in 2008 to create a camp experience that would cater to the needs of Jewish children aged 3-12 with a wide range of disabilities and medical needs. The camp addresses the social, recreational, and therapeutic needs of these children. It is the only Jewish day camp in Toronto providing for special needs children, serving some 40 children each July. This year a Leadership Program was instituted to service special needs teens by providing them with specialty programming and vocational training while instilling in them the value of giving back to their community. Our mission is to help physically and mentally disabled children enjoy a Jewish day camp environment while continuing to grow in skills and self-esteem through the summer.

We are conscious of the critical need for socialization, recreation and therapy in this population and are committed to growing the service to more children in the community. The camp currently plays a vital role in the lives of children and their families. It provides a warm Jewish environment filled with activities for the children, and a much needed respite for their parents and siblings. Hard-earned advances made by the children in the school year are constantly built upon as we bridge the delicate balance between therapy and fun.

Help CAMP AIM in its mission to provide more services to more Jewish children with special needs.

CAMP AIM presently manages its budget for the current enrollment in three ways: first, through tuition; second, through the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) government initiative; and third, through various government and non-governmental grants that are available to the parents. We have already received the maximum allotted amount for a camp from the CSJ.

It is important to note that since the inception of the camp in 2008, we have always maintained a deficit-free budget. The camp has been run in a lean yet most efficient manner. We have never advertised, yet our enrollment has grown exponentially from ten children to forty this year, and a wait list of ten.

Our proposal requires your investment for program funding so that we can open our doors to as many Jewish children with special needs as possible. As well, CAMP AIM seeks to launch a marketing and public relations campaign to raise community awareness and future funding in order to ensure sustainability. Your help in this area would be most beneficial.

We are excited about the prospect of partnering with you in this endeavor and thank you for your consideration of our request.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Club

In the spring of 2011, Beth Tzedec Congregation soft launched a one of a kind pilot project, The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Club, targeted at Jewish children who have difficulty with social situations (i.e. diagnosed non-verbal learning disabilities, social anxiety and Asperger’s Syndrome, etc.) and who are approaching their Bar/Bat Mitzvah year. We want to hard launch the project as a full scale program for the entire Jewish community beginning in the spring of 2012.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Club combines the best practices of a social skills group for students with high functioning special needs with the content and process of Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation curriculum in the context of how these children learn (differently), form friendships (or have difficulty forming friendships), and find value and comfort in a Jewish setting. We see this model as a replicable one for excellence in inclusion and outreach for the entire Jewish community and beyond. In order to meet the needs of the larger community, we would benefit from formal curricular development, program development in light of comparative research in other religions’ integration of this population, enhanced budget requirements for programmatic add-ins such as outings, and a comprehensive recruitment strategy to attract more participants.

The 2011 pilot project, which will continue into the fall, enrolled four boys, coming from homes of varying degrees of Jewish commitment and attending different types of schools. All of their families struggle with integrating their children into mainstream Jewish life – whether camp, school, synagogue, etc. While the program is sponsored by a Conservative synagogue and co-facilitated by one of its rabbis, it does not have a specific denominational agenda and is open to the whole community. The pilot project ran for seven 90 minute sessions, in addition to an orientation and intake interviews. Through games, activities, dinner and discussion, the participants, who often don’t participate in activities offered from organized Jewish life and feel anxiety toward celebrating a Bar-Mitzvah, were able to discuss and process what it means to be Jewish. Topics addressed included being part of a group, expectations of a community, responsibility, mitzvah, our relationship with G-d, creating a Bar Mitzvah ceremony and celebration that works for them, and identification with Israel.

The parents of the children met concurrently with a group facilitator from the team. They discussed the challenges of raising children with these difficulties and established peer support. The parents were able to create a clearer vision of how to proceed in directing their children toward the Bar Mitzvah celebration and future participation in Jewish life that met the needs of both their child and themselves.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Club was conceived in partnership between interested synagogue parental leaders and synagogue clergy. It was designed by a team of educators, clergy, and committed congregants together with a team of skilled, highly trained experts in various fields. The team included:

1. Adam Cutler, MA – Rabbi, Beth Tzedec Congregation
2. Jonathan Leef, M.A.- PhD candidate (5th year), School and Clinical Child Psychology Program, Department of Human Development and Applied Psychology, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto; Research Coordinator, Autism Research Unit, Hospital for Sick Children
3. Barbara Muskat, PhD, RSW - Academic and Clinical Specialist, Department of Social Work, The Hospital for Sick Children; Assistant Professor, Status only, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto; and Child and Adolescent Therapist, The Redpath Centre
4. Connie Putterman and David Golden – Parents, Board Member for Jewish and Autism Spectrum Disorder related organizations and others including: Jerusalem Foundation of Canada, Canadian Friends of Hebrew U, Autism Care Ontario, Autism Speaks Canada, Danny Grossman Dance Company (Toronto)
5. Lili Senman, MA - Research Coordinator, Autism Research Unit, Hospital for Sick Children
6. Jill Shuster, MA – PhD Candidate, York University, Clinical-Developmental Psychology, (degree expected 2012) and Psychology resident, London Clinical Psychology Consortium, Child and Adolescent Track
7. Abbie Solish, M.A. - PhD Candidate, York University and Psychology Intern, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
8. Jennifer Turack, MA – Director of Family Education, Beth Tzedec Congregation
9. Jonathan Weiss, PhD, CPsych - Assistant Professor and Clinical Psychologist, Department of Psychology, York University

The participants’ program was facilitated by Rabbi Adam Cutler, Abbie Solish and Jill Shuster. Jonathan Leef facilitated the Parent Group.

With the full launch, we hope to partner with local schools, camps, and youth movements and are open to developing a long term relationship with Jewish Family and Child.