Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ramapo for Children

Last Tuesday Bob and I skipped out of town to just outside Rhinebeck, New York. You know Rhinebeck - where Chelsea Clinton will be married in a few days.

We were going to Ramapo for Children, a camp for children with special needs. It has been run for the past twenty-five years by Bernie Kosberg. Last Tuesday the Camp held an official "Hats Off to Bernie" Day. Everyone was invited - the Board of Directors, past counselors, friends of the Camp, and of course the kids and counselors. Bernie's family, too - of which we are proud to be members through marriage. Alex married Bernie's and Susan's daughter in a tent next to the Sherwood a year ago.

By way of disclosure, I must say that Alex is now the Director of Business Operations at the Camp and its New York office. I am also an old special education teacher, with many summers working with kids behind me.

The Camp was incredible and I found myself in tears often at what they had accomplished. Please look it up: From the lake to the cabins, the pools to the new challenge barn - amazing!

Everywhere there were kids, playing, talking, swimming, always engaged with each other and their counselors. They have so many counselors it could be one-to-one. The kids stay for two or three week sessions over the summer. And we're not talking about local rich kids, but kids from the City mingling with kids from the suburbs and even out-of-state. The cost to me seems more than reasonable, too - a thousand or more per week. For what they get...!

As they moved through the day I remembered my days at the Waldorf School in Saratoga. Every step of the way was important - every change from one spot to another. They sang, they danced - no walking in line and getting told to stand up straight - they moved. Yes there were some who had difficulties, but not that many. We sat in an outdoor amphitheater for a brief ceremony - more singing, a skit or two, some talking, a poem. And there were over two hundred kids with special needs like autism engaged. The energy was palpable.

I am proud that Alex has found a way to combine his degree and interests with the not-for-profit world of special kids. I am happy to be extended family with the Kosbergs who have given the Camp so much over the years. I wish there were a way to send kids from Central New York to the camp - two weeks of fun and learning and total acceptance. Outside! How wonderful. I'm told that kids come back year after year and some progress to being junior counselors. How lucky they are.

So hats off to Bernie and what he has accomplished!