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Camp Chaverim goes “extreme” after 23 years of midtown community service

Gracia grins for the camera as she and members of the “pink group” enjoy cooling waters during the second session at this summer's Camp Chaverim, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City. photos provided

By Patrick B. McGuigan
Associate Publisher
Executive Editor

Another year at Camp Chaverim is finished. Happy campers have returned to their homes, day care and/or schools. For the past 23 years, children ages two to 13 have attended what the Jewish Federation of Oklahoma City describes as “a special summer place where campers make new friends and memories, strengthen confidence, develop creativity and competence” and do fun “camp things.” All this in “a safe, nurturing and spirited camp environment.”

The annual summer event, consisting of three sessions, draws strength from the entire Jewish community of Oklahoma City, as well as many non-Jewish supporters.
Camp director Pamela Richman reflected, after finishing the busy summer of work, “When we selected our 2011 camp theme, ‘Xtreme Chaverim,’ we had no idea how ‘Xtremely’ HOT these past two months were going to be. Despite the triple digit heat, we really did ‘turn the heat up’ on many cool camp activities.”
For the first time, the camp featured a book exchange. Campers donated or exchanges books among themselves. Remaining donated new and used books went to the Pauline Mayer Children’s Shelter Library, serving abused children.

Children learned generosity and charitable giving, the meaning of the Hebrew word “tzedakah,” with a “fun-raiser” dubbed “Cash for Critters.” That money went to the Central Oklahoma Humane Society. The camp sustained its longtime affiliation with the Respect Diversity Foundation through a collaborative art work project that will be featured in the “One World – Many Stories” exhibit next spring at the Oklahoma Science Museum.

Camp Chaverim varies its schedule, with five-day and three-day options on weekdays. Campers met real artists, chefs, dancers, athletes, teachers, actors, directors, musicians, scouts, poets and vocalists. They interacted with Jewish educators, a teacher from Israel and real Rabbis.
Organizers pride themselves on “meaningful and playful” activities at the summer camp, and that was the case again this year as children chopped vegetables, danced in both free and structured ways, sang together, acted, drew and created their own works of art.

For the diversity project, children in the last week’s camp created a paper-mache’ globe in activities guided by Elise Gordon. A depiction of the world showed people of varied races, nations and cultures. In conjunction with this project the youngsters learned Haiku poems from Joeln Korenbilt and decorated mandalas.
Campers also could participate in a talent show featuring not only performance art but also demonstrations of “inventions” and “rainbow people drawings from Judaica.” In the last week of the summer, older children went on an overnight campout.

The City Sentinel asked a three-year-old boy from Crown Heights what his favorite thing about camp was. The “seasoned veteran” of Chaverim, said his favorite activity at his second annual camp was “crazy day.”

That was Wednesday of the summer’s last week, when children were encouraged to dress up or wear their hair in wild ways. Atop his spiked hair, the boy wore a train engineer’s cap. He had on a Thomas-the-train shirt and a long beard. He said, “I had a good day.”

Program director for Camp Chaverim is Marcy Price, a longtime employee of the federation and well-known community leader. For more information, visit the Facebook page “campchaverimok

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