After six fun-filled weeks, this year’s virtual camp, Camp JCC in the Cloud, concluded on August 14. What began as uncharted territory is now a new, innovative way to connect with area children and teens.
Camp JCC collaborated with Happy Camper Live to create this year’s virtual platform. The site is vibrant, energetic, and easy to use. Still, the most important element was the personal touch of Camp JCC staff and counselors who created meaningful experiences via Zoom.
“It was an incredible opportunity to host live classes on ‘Happy Camper Live,’ says Christian Fenley, a longtime Camp JCC staff alum. “Seeing that online platform advertised on some of the family-friendly networks makes me happy to think about how many more people will be exposed to the talents of our staff. Through Camp JCC in the Cloud I was able to share smiles and laughter with campers all summer!”
The virtual platform called for some counselors to go beyond their comfort zones. “I’ve learned how to develop virtual content and how to be more confident in front of a camera,” says Ayanna Johnson. “Although we did not get to see each other in person, we still built memories. The best part is that the memories are only a click away!”
Each live activity was recorded, and then uploaded on the site as a video on demand. Campers can access these videos from anywhere, at anytime. Camp JCC plans to share these videos throughout the year to connect with families and help parents find interactive virtual activities.
Still, it was hard on both the campers and staff to not physically be at camp. “Weekly Shabbat was my favorite thing each week. It was my normalcy for this summer and brought a sense of community and traditions,” says Zack Krell. “Seeing smiling faces of campers and staff put a smile on my face throughout the summer!”
The connection expanded beyond Tidewater. Camp JCC in the Cloud made it possible to connect with the camp’s Shaliach (an Israeli emissary who shares their experiences and provides a human connection to Israel with Jewish summer camps) from a couple of years ago, Noya Arazi. “Virtual camp helped me bring the Israeli culture (in different ways) all the way to Virginia from Tel Aviv. Also, welcoming Shabbat online with people from the diaspora, reminded me of the values we all share as a worldwide Jewish community,” says Arazi.
Camp JCC in the Cloud brought fun, learning, and smiles to the community at no cost. No matter what the future holds, Camp JCC will be armed with Happy Camper Live and a summer’s worth of practice to continue to provide virtual experiences.
To learn more about the Simon Family JCC’s virtual children’s programming or to join the Children and Family committee to help shape family engagement, including camp, contact Nofar Trem, manager of Youth and Teen Experiences at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sarah Cooper, program manager of Kids Connection, at email@example.com.
– Sarah Cooper and Nofar Trem