Erika Eklund reports for The Mountain Eagle:
Gilboa – It’s virtually impossible to enter the girl’s campus of Oorah’s TheZone Camp in Gilboa without being caught up in the energy, friendliness and excitement exhibited on the faces of the campers and staff members who spend their summer there.
The entire campus is abuzz with activity, with campers and their counselors making their way to and from a seemingly endless variety of activities and programs offered around the property. Weather its swimming, horseback riding, jumping on the trampoline, trying out the new bumper boats or just taking a trip down the newly installed zip line, every corner of the camp is filled with opportunities to make the most of an annual trip to summer camp in the Catskills.
On Tuesday, elected officials and local emergency services representatives got an opportunity to see, first hand, the good things going on at the camp during what is becoming an annual luncheon and open house.
Representatives from Delaware, Greene, Schoharie and Otsego Counties made their way to TheZone, where they enjoyed lunch on the camp’s island dock. During the lunch, they were able to see campers moving around campus, dancing to the music being pumped through the loud speakers and shreiking with delight as they flew high above the guest’s heads on the zip line.
Several campers also visited with the guests and shared some of the things they most love about getting to spend their summers at the camp.
Ruby is a young camper from New Jersey who is enjoying her fourth summer at TheZone. She told special guests on Tuesday she loves coming to camp because of the many caring and loving people she has met there. “TheZone is like open arms you run into and hug,” said Ruby. “TheZone is my second home.”
Creating an environment where every camper feels welcome, accepted and special is something which is very important to the camp’s operators and every attempt is made to give each camper the individual attention they need and deserve.
“Many of these kids come from very difficult home lives,” said camp director Rabbi Avrohom Kravetz. “Our goal is to provide disadvantaged or underprivileged youth with a summer away. We want to give them a chance to escape the every day and we do everything we can to make it like Disney World here. To make it the happiest place on earth.”
With approximately 500 campers on site at any given time, Kravetz said they have still managed to provide an almost 1 to 1 camper to counselor ratio, ensuring that each camper is provided with a personal and rewarding experience. Each camper is matched with a mentor who they build a relationship with throughout the summer. Once camp is over and children return to their every day lives, that relationship with their mentor continues as they keep in contact throughout the year.
Intermediate camper Mia, who travels to TheZone from California each year said the relationships she has with her counselors has made her want to return year after year. “They are always there for us and make us feel like family,” said Mia. “They are the best because they give us the best summers of our lives.”
Kravetz said they understand how much a month at camp means to the campers who come to TheZone and said they work hard to provide new activities, outings and opportunities all the time. Campers have taken trips to Six Flags Great Escape, the Adirondack Extreme Aerial Adventure Park, the Zoom Flume and many other locations throughout the region and state.
Delaware County Emergency Services Director Richard Bell said Tuesday’s event was the first opportunity he had to visit the camp and he was impressed with what he saw.
“I have to say I am very impressed with everything I have seen,” said Bell “They look very well organized, clean and happy. Everyone looks like they are having a very good time.”
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