Laura, Bryan, Charlie, and Bex Loebl (pictured above)
By: Laura Loebl
When my husband and I married, I said to him, “No matter what, our kids are going to overnight camp. Not just for a couple years, but I want our kids to become lifers. I want that written in our Ketubah.” I think he may have thought I was joking, but I wasn’t. I truly believed, and still believe, that the gift of overnight camp is very important to nurturing a child’s independence and self-awareness. I wanted to make sure that our children could have that experience as early and for as long as we could provide.
In 2010, our twins, Bex and Charlie, were in first grade and I brought up the subject of overnight camp. I think all three faces staring at me at the dinner table dropped their jaws. Are they too young? Where would they go? I only want to go to camp with my sister/brother, not an all boy’s/girl’s camp! These were the conversations we started to have. We looked all around the country…1-week camps, 4-weeks, 7-weeks, what would be best for our family? Jewish, not Jewish? All I knew is that we wanted a co-ed camp that was non-competitive, out of the Texas heat (where we lived), close to a medical center and Jewish. After Thanksgiving in Cleveland that year with family and friends, it dawned on us; Camp Wise – The Home of Happiness – could be the right fit. It checked all the boxes.
We were all full of nerves in advance of the kids’ first summer. They were the youngest kids at the camp and we were sending them across the country for four weeks. We felt we were in good hands. The staff, including my lifelong friends, Special Projects Associate and Aquatics Supervisor, Beth Young, and camp doctor, Rob Zimmerman, would be there. We had family nearby in case someone was needed immediately.
On the day of that first drop off, our son was completely nervous and white as a ghost when we dropped him off. Our daughter, on the other hand, could not wait to get on the bus. I am not even sure she hugged us goodbye. And then, we returned home to Houston. Refresh….refresh…refresh…where are the photos? How are they? Where are the letters? Are they having fun? Are the kids nice?
Eight years, three houses and two states later, we now live in Cleveland and the one constant that has remained for our family is Camp Wise. It is where our children, now teenagers, have found themselves. It is where they have learned independence. It is where they have learned how to enjoy the muddy, rainy camp summers more than the hot and dry ones. On a regular basis, they debate whether potato bar constitutes as a full meal. They know that they have a community that wraps around them and supports them. Toasted cheese. Chugs and more chugs. And, as one of our kids says, “Camp Wise is a feeling; you can’t label it or define it by one word. It IS Camp Wise.”
This summer has been tough. It would have been their last year as “real” campers before their Solel summer. But, our children know that by staying home, they are taking care of not only themselves but the larger camp community. This is important to them as it is bringing to life the values they learn about at camp. They know their Home of Happiness will be there for them when they can go back. They are Lifers.
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.