Jun 12, 2019

Posted by: Emily Reilly

A New Beginning

The sun rose this morning onto a changed Ranch Camp – even before the first camper set foot onto the property, the air hummed with a new energy. This day has been anticipated for many months, by hundreds of people. For some of these campers, this is their first time back to camp in a year – for others, the break has been longer, and on the other end of the spectrum, many campers are joining the Ranch Camp community for the first time. But whether this is a camper’s first year or eighth, each and every one shared in the excitement that was nearly palpable in the air as Ranch Camp’s principal inhabitants finally made their way to camp.

Some came by bus, others by car, drives ranging from an hour to an interstate trip. Others waited for the first sign of camp with bated breath on the drive from the airport. So many different journeys, one common destination. Sand crunched under tires as the cars and buses made their way up the main road, the promise of summer spilling into reality as camp grew alive with shouted greetings and energetic introductions. Campers converged into groups as the members of their cabins finally arrived. Though the units they inhabit – Chalutzim, Metapsim, and Toshavim – may be divided by age, the campers are anything but separated, each age group like a sibling to the others as they all came together into the first song circle of the session. Though traditionally sung in the evenings, the Ranch Camp Song closed the circle perfectly with lyrics that resonated with everyone, the sky truly the “bluest here,” the colors truly “alive with joy.”

The rest of the afternoon, fueled by a delicious summertime lunch, showed no decrease in enthusiasm. The gleeful shouts of campers echoed between buildings as the cabins checked in at the Mir Pa’ah (or infirmary), chose their riding boots at the corral, received their Ranch Camp t-shirts, and posed for cabin photos. In between, they played games and settled into their cabins, quickly developing friendships with the people they will spend the next two weeks with.

Dinner was readily anticipated, fresh and filling, fuel for the one last activity of the night: Bombardier. Though a fairly new activity, this evening program has swiftly become a Ranch Camp tradition. A combination of trivia, tag, and teambuilding, Bombardier has something for everyone, a fact that was evident with the smiling faces of every camper who ran past. Cabins work as teams, running from trivia station to trivia station to answer questions while trying to avoid the “bombardiers,” or staff members dressed in costume. If “bopped” by a bombardier, each cabin would complete a teambuilding activity, laughs ricocheting around the playing area as campers raced to remember facts about each other or compose a rap about their new friends. Though many of the campers may have felt like strangers to one another just this morning, the opposite was true as the evening came to a close, those both returning and new heading off to bed with a full heart and peaceful mind, knowing that they are in a place where they belong.

Summer has finally begun. JCC Ranch Camp is a place free from the stressors that members of the community may be experiencing in the outside world. Here, kids aren’t graded on their artwork. They run for fun, not because it’s a gym requirement. Friendships blossom without the social pressures that may be placed on them by schoolmates. No matter what may be going on in a camper’s life, they can come here knowing that those things will not follow them, and here, they will be nothing but accepted for who they are. This is a place of new beginnings, and today was a beginning for the books. From the moment the gates opened to the first song circle, from the afternoon’s activities to each cabin’s bedtime ritual, a sense of community was felt by all, something that can only grow stronger as the session continues. The energy in the air that was present this morning will carry every member of the Ranch Camp community through these next two weeks, two weeks that will be full of moments and memories of what may very well be the best summer that camp has seen yet.