By Hannah Simon
Camp Impact will look different this summer. Due to COVID-19, the camp has adapted to the current reality that it is not safe to bring so many people together in one place. The program has been suspended for the first time in 24 years. Despite the interruption, Camp Impact will continue to serve the community this summer by distributing food and necessary items to campers and their families.
The volunteer-led organization serves homeless and low-income children from Arlington and Grand Prairie, ranging from ages 6 to 14. Every summer, Camp Impact hosts more than 100 children, giving them breakfast, lunch, an afternoon snack and a day filled with unforgettable fun in between. Campers participate in activities such as science experiments, arts and crafts, swimming and roller skating (for many of the kids it is their first time).
In addition to camp activities, the oldest campers take a tour of UT Arlington to motivate them to go to college. For many of the families, these campers would be the first to attend. There are several kids who started off as campers, have grown up going to Camp Impact, and now attend university.
Camp Impact started in 1996, as a mitzvah project at Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington by the Jewish teens in the Temple Youth group ARFTY. Over time, it has expanded and eventually became its own functioning nonprofit organization. It was inspired by tikkun olam. The organization raises most of its money, but it depends upon the support of the broader community. The Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County gives a yearly allocation to the camp. Bob Goldberg, executive director of the Federation, said, “Camp Impact is an example of our very best Jewish values put into action, it was designed to embrace and uplift a community of young children who would otherwise go without a summer camping experience. Many of us know the life changing potential of summer camp. It is 100% volunteer led by dedicated Jewish community members, both the adults that guide the camp and the teenagers who serve as counselors and learn leadership, compassion and responsibility. We are a proud partner of Camp Impact.”
Despite the interruption, Camp Impact will continue to serve the community this summer by distributing food and necessary items to campers and their families.
“Although we cannot have our traditional camp experience this summer, I am very proud of the way our organization has pivoted and will continue to impact families with essential groceries. We are so thankful to our counselors, volunteers, and donors that continue to work hard and make all of this happen,” said Lance Friedensohn, who is the adult co-director of the camp, along with Rachel Guy.
The Camp is run primarily by Jewish teens from Tarrant County and Harris County. Due to things beyond their control, student co-directors for summer 2020, Jackie Herman’s and Caroline Sloter’s jobs have changed drastically this summer.
“Camp Impact is extremely important to us as it allows us to not only make a difference in the lives of amazing children, but also because it opens our eyes to parts of the world that we often don’t experience,” said Sloter. Camp Impact plans to be back next summer.
Want to get involved?
On Saturday, June 20, Camp Impact volunteers will collect and distribute donations at Bonham Early Education School, 1301 E. Coral Way in Grand Prairie. Donations need to be dropped off before 11:30 a.m. The most helpful items are: nonperishable foods, canned foods, baby products such as diapers and formula, paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, feminine products, coloring books, markers and sidewalk chalk. Monetary donations in any amount are welcome. The camp website is https://www.campimpact.org/.
Another way to get involved is to donate to, “The One Step at a Time Run” fundraiser being organized by Ian Hernandez, Adam Garfield, Murray Adelstein, and Benny Sudbury, all longtime volunteers at Camp Impact. Starting on June 13, they will be participating in a 300-mile, tag-team run/walk, from Houston to Grand Prairie. They will be arriving in Grand Prairie on June 18. They want to raise awareness around children living in poverty, and raise money to assure the camp can continue to provide necessities. Please consider donating at https://gf.me/u/x5k8px.