by Melissa Kenny, Coleman Nurse and Parent

Earlier today, it dawned on me that the 2nd session of camp is a mere few months away.

It also dawned on me that I had never done anything with the pictures I took this past summer. As I looked through my pictures, I could not help but get excited; if all goes well, we will be headed back to Camp Coleman this year for our second summer.

This past summer, at 48 years old, I had my very first sleepaway camp experience. Though I had heard stories about Camp Coleman from my nieces and nephews for the last 11 years, nothing could have prepared me for my just over 3 ½ weeks at camp. It was rewarding, spiritual, fun, and exhausting, all at the same time.

The “kids”- campers and staff in the Kenny-Cotler family

I was always able to hear the music from campers and staff before I was able to see them on Friday nights. I got goosebumps each week as the group (a vision in white) became visible and walked up the hill, carrying the Torahs, playing their guitars, and singing Shabbat songs. Even the Hadar (dining hall) was dressed in white for Shabbat. The ruach (spirit) before and after each meal was always something that amazed me. The singing and the cheering were unbelievable! Sitting in the Hilman Chapel for services and looking out over Lake Shalom or in the Strauss Chapel among the forest and listening to the sounds of nature in the background … it was hard not to feel connected to G-d. It was perhaps the most peaceful worship experience I’ve ever had.

My time at camp as one of the health center RNs is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. Although I was working, I not only got to be like a fly on the wall, but I had the opportunity to connect with and develop friendships with other Jewish adults and leaders from throughout the United States and all over the world. These are the very same incredible individuals who were interacting with and teaching our children.

Perhaps the most special moment though, was the day we left camp and were reunited for our first meal together as a family. We heard first hand from Brendan (12) and Liam (9) about how much fun they had, how much they loved camp, and how they learned that being Jewish is fun. Liam shared that they learned to embrace their inner selves and asked if he can have his Bar Mitzvah at Camp Coleman … Wow! When we got in the car, the boys immediately started singing Birkat Hamazon (the blessing after the meal). I had tears in my eyes. It was a truly priceless moment!

Thank you URJ Camp Coleman for an unforgettable and life changing experience. Several friends have said that the money we spend to send our children to Jewish sleepaway camp is one of the best investments we’ll ever make. I now understand and agree with this statement.