On behalf of our lay leadership team, it is with great pleasure that I report to you, our parent body, on the status of our 50th Ramah summer at this mid-season point. Our board, who is ultimately responsible and accountable for all that happens at Camp, focused this year on significantly upgrading the level of “camper care”. New facilities, new programming, new procedures were all the result of the common theme of moving the level of the camper experience to higher levels of excellence. New practices and protocols are often challenging to everyone – to staff and to parents alike. But if the goal is worthwhile, we are committed to fine tuning and improving the process so that we succeed in enhancing the camper experience.
Here is an update that describes positive changes and improvements around camp and around the camper experience.
1) Facilities – At our spring board meeting, $200,000 was appropriated (some of which was used this summer already and the rest for next summer) for bunk enhancements such as new ceiling fans, new windows and screens, improved ventilation, new and greatly improved bunk furniture of beds and cubbies, new bathrooms, new porches, as well as reconfiguring bunks to improve space utilization. It is critical that the bunk space be clean and more spacious. Our priority is to improve the quality of life within the bunk for ALL campers.
With efforts to constantly improve our sports facilities, the A-side softball field was rebuilt and is now equipped new clay baselines. The interior rooms of our Ulam (indoor recreation center), which already transformed camp last summer, are now complete with a new dance studio and a state of the art weight room with exercise machines and free weights. This year, too, the High Ropes course is now complete and fully operational.
2) Programming – Both our Sports and Al Hagovah (Outdoor Education) staffs were upgraded this year to include certified coaches all summer long. The Al Hagovah staff tripled in size requiring pre-summer training for all. The level of activity both quantitatively and qualitatively is apparent when walking around camp on any day. We recognize that great facilities can only produce great results with great staff and great programming
3) New procedures – In order to enhance the opening day experience for our campers, a critical transition time into camp, two new procedures were instituted. Every camper now rides together to camp on the bus and luggage is sent to camp earlier and ready in the bunk when the campers arrive. With increased staff participation at the bus stops and on the buses, the camp experience started as each camper boarded the bus. Without the need to load and unload duffels, the buses could leave quickly and campers could settle into their bunks more easily.
We recognize that any new procedure requires adjustment and inevitably presents challenges which can be frustrating. And so we want to thank our camper parent body for their patience and cooperation in helping us transition to these new procedures. We want to assure you that we are very sensitive to any unforeseen concerns and committed to making the process as user friendly as possible.
The overwhelming response from parents has been positive. Some of you expressed the challenge of being ready so many days before the start of camp. One parent told us that she recognized after going through this new procedure that she could now focus on her child and not packing because she is so ahead of the game compared to 2012.
As a Board, we take our role seriously in our oversight of Camp and in working for the greater welfare of our campers. These changes in policy were strongly supported and advocated by our Board. This new procedure does not benefit camp financially. The intention was never to make the transition to camp more difficult for you or your child. Rather, the goal was to learn from other camps and implement a recommended service which would enhance the opening day experience for every camper. Our motivation, always, is to support our insightful professionals whose priority is always your child.
Finally, I hope you are aware of our 50th summer celebration of Camp this year, that will culminate at our Annual Dinner in December. The major celebration, Festival @ 50, took place on Sunday June 9 in camp. An astounding number of Ramah alumni, families and friends attended – over 900 total! Such participation is a reflection of the passion our Ramah community has had and continues to have for this amazing institution. That is what inspires us as a leadership team to dream and support an ever greater vision for Ramah Berkshires. Along with our year-round professional staff , we believe that our goals of excellence in all areas of the camp experience is a worthy one and one which is achievable. As we look back with nostalgia at our first 50 years, we continue to also look forward to greater heights in the years ahead. Our kids and our Ramah kehilla deserve no less. What a true privilege it is for us to work on our Ramah community’s behalf !
I look forward to seeing everyone this Sunday on Visiting Day. Please come over and speak with me and my fellow officers and Board members who will be in camp to greet you.
Dr. Hugh Pollack, President