16 Camps awarded Yashar Initiative Grants to Increase Accessibility for Campers and Staff with Disabilities

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16 camps across North America will be the first recipients of a new grant to increase accessibility for campers and staff with disabilities through Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Yashar Initiative. The Hebrew word “Yashar” translates to both “level” and “integrity,” and like its namesake, the Yashar Initiative is intended to improve accessibility for campers and staff with disabilities on multiple levels by providing funds for capital improvements, professional development, staff training, research and evaluation.

The 16 day and overnight camps awarded this first round of Yashar grants represent a diverse range of affiliations:

  • Beber Camp, Wisconsin
  • B’nai Brith Camp, Oregon
  • Camp Keff, California
  • Camp Ramah, California
  • Camp Ramah Poconos. Pennsylvania
  • Camp Simcha, New York
  • Camp Solomon Schechter, Washington
  • Camp Tawonga, California
  • JCC Camp Chi, Wisconsin
  • JCC Camp Ruach, New Jersey
  • JCC Camp Yachad, New Jersey
  • JCC Camp Z Frank Apachi, Illinois
  • Mid Island Y JCC Camp, New York
  • Ramah Darom, Georgia
  • Ramah Day Camp, New York
  • URJ Camp Harlam, Pennsylvania

A past FJC-administered survey identified the need for greater accessibility for staff and campers with disabilities as a major barrier to participation in Jewish camps. The Yashar Initiative was designed to address the needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorder, as well as people with intellectual, developmental, physical, and sensory disabilities.

Each of the grantees included in this first round of giving was required to independently raise 25 percent of the project’s cost before applying. Each camp will receive money for both capital improvements, as well as a program grant totaling $2.5 million for the first round of the initiative. The camps anticipate finishing their improvements by the summer of 2020.

Examples of approved projects include:

  • Building or renovating bunks to be more accessible for campers and staff;
  • Developing sensory gardens, splash pools, and playgrounds to enhance services of campers with disabilities;
  • Improving accessibility for campers with disabilities as part of construction or renovation of communal buildings, such as dining halls and infirmaries;
  • Creating new housing to serve vocational training programs that allow campers with disabilities to grow into staff roles at camp.

In keeping with the goals of the initiative to promote a greater culture of inclusion, each grant recipient has committed to increasing their total campers with disabilities to at least five percent of the total camper population.

The Yashar Initiative will accept grant applications again this fall, as well as in the fall of 2020.

The $12 million Yashar Initiative is generously funded by The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.