Ben and Becky (pictured above) celebrating their marriage at Camp Wise.
By: Ben Stallsmith & Becky Lord
As campers, we grew up in the Camp Wise community, each of us having an opportunity to make our own, individual memories over the years. Ben (aka Stallz) spent his first of 17 summers at Camp Wise in 2001, while Becky spent her first of 10 summers at CW in 2004. As we grew older, we had the privilege of meeting one another as part of the same Maccabiah team (Go Lorax!). After a good first impression, we kept in touch with one another over the years, and ultimately started dating in the summer of 2011.
Undoubtedly, this has been a challenging year for everyone. For us, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, spelled out the postponement of our wedding – something we naturally had been incredibly excited about and planning for well over a year. But as two life-long Camp Wisers, we were fortunate enough to have developed the skills and ability to adapt, adjust, and roll with the cards we were dealt while managing to find the positive in any situation (or you could say, making lemonade flavored bug juice out of lemons!).
We have often said that the decision our parents made in sending us to Camp Wise was the single most impactful decision on the trajectory of our lives. For both of us, camp was a place where we had the opportunity to explore our identities and become the best versions of ourselves, which ultimately led us to finding each other. Our time as staff members helped us discover our life passions and personal interests.
For me (Ben), the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of my campers inspired me to pursue a career in education. Camp Wise’s core values, such as Tikkun Olam (Repair the World) and B’tzelem Elohim (In the Image of G-d), and the lessons I learned from members of the Camp Wise community continue to inspire me as a social studies teacher. I use my classroom as a space to inspire change, develop empathy, and learn with my students about how to create a more just world.
For me (Becky), my time at camp taught me about my love for working with and helping children, leading me to a career as a Physician Assistant in a pediatric emergency department. Learning the basic skills of how to take care of and support a child when they are upset and knowing how rewarding it is when you can help them feel better is something that guides me every day at work. It’s one of the greatest skills I walked away with after my time at Wise.
As a couple, Camp instilled in us a love for the outdoors, the importance of celebrating our Judaism, building a Jewish home together, the ability to bring ruach and excitement to our everyday lives, and the insight that what you get out of life is what you put into it. And, most importantly, we are forever thankful for Camp Wise as it is the place where we met, fell in love, and began the foundation of our lives together.
Like us, every person who has the privilege of spending a summer at Camp Wise is bound to gain something special out of their time there — a new friendship, a life skill, or the planting of a seed that will impact the direction of their life entirely. When we heard about the important and necessary decision to cancel camp this summer, we were absolutely devastated. We felt heartbroken for the hundreds of campers and staff members who would not be able to experience the magic that the two of us experienced so many times over, who would have one less summer to experience all of the joys and lessons that camp affords so many Jewish youth and staff each year.
But with camp not in session, an old dream of ours – to get married at the place we met – came back into our mind. With a wedding rescheduled for the summer of 2021, but the desire to become officially married sooner, the idea of a summertime camp wedding quickly turned from a dream, to a possibility, and (with the help of Rachel Felber and others) to a reality. With the haste of planning an evening program or lunchtime skit, we put together a plan for our wedding in under a week. Now a month after that special day, we feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to get married by the wonderful Cantor Kathy Sebo in the magical place we met – surrounded by our parents, grandmothers, Ben’s sister (Ann), and maid of honor and best men (who, of course, are camp friends as well).
As we stood under the Chuppah in the Camp Wise chapel – looking up in amazement at the swaying trees, the sun shining through, and the grandeur of our surroundings – we reflected not only on our love for one another, but also the importance of the physical space where we were standing and pure impact that camp has had on our lives.
Becky and Stallz (pictured above) as staff in 2012.
Click here to donate to the philanthropic efforts to support and stabilize Camp Wise’s financial condition at this time. Every donation counts to help ensure we can provide many more life-changing Jewish summers for our campers and staff. Currently, all donations from our community will be matched through the All Together Now matching grant program, made possible through JCamp 180, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.