Livingston, NJ November 12, 2014 — This past August, NCJW/Essex volunteer Karen Feinblatt of West Orange, NJ, facilitated the NCJW/Essex RISE program (Reaching Into Self-Empowerment) at Camp Happy Times, a weeklong overnight summer camp experience for children ages 5-22 who have or have had cancer. This free camp program, operated by the non-profit organization The Valerie Fund, is a cause close to Karen’s heart because she has seen how the children and young adults who attend camp put their cancer on the back burner and just have fun. It is also an opportunity for family members to have a respite from medical concerns and just relax, often with their other children.
Camp Happy Times, located in Pennsylvania, was founded 31 years ago and focuses on providing campers a recreationally therapeutic environment that helps to build self-esteem, friendship and independence. Throughout the week, the campers are encouraged to take on the challenges of all the activities the camp has to offer while building confidence and self-assurance. Karen, a long-time volunteer with NCJW/Essex and Camp Happy Times, saw an opportunity to bring the RISE program, which shares many of the same goals, to the young adults at camp. “I really felt that the Leaders in Training (LITs) would benefit immensely from the RISE workshop which focuses on viewing life in a positive light. Many of the young women started out in Cabin 1 as my campers, and it was a pleasure to see how they have matured and blossomed.”
The program was offered to the LITs, ages 19-22, many who have been campers since they were six and seven years old. In one exercise, participants selected and read a positive quote and introduced themselves explaining the quote’s relevance to their lives. They also wrote their own positive self-affirmations and were encouraged to read and repeat them out loud each day. Said one participant: “This program encouraged me to focus on the positive aspects of my life and not dwell on my illness.”
This was the first year RISE has been part of the Camp Happy Times schedule, and its success certainly indicates it will continue in the future. “The program was so worthwhile and the workshops really resonated with the campers,” reflected Karen. “I hope we can increase the program next year. RISE is a great NCJW/Essex program and it is wonderful to see it being utilized at Camp Happy Times where it can have a positive influence on young adults who are or have been coping with cancer.”