C is for Camp Chi… and Cookie!
The Camp Chi team racks up some serious miles each offseason. We travel near and far to meet campers and staff. We go to places like Budapest, London, Amsterdam, Israel and more to recruit staff and trek all over the country to meet campers. But the coolest trip we’ve taken this year? The one that left us star struck and in awe? That would be our visit to Sesame Place where we met Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster and more!
Kyle, Joelle and Jen had the privilege to visit Sesame Place in Pennsylvania through an opportunity with Foundation for Jewish Camp. The theme park based off the 50-year-old TV show starring some of the most famous Muppets, is also a Certified Autism Center. At camp, we pride ourselves on being a place where everyone is comfortable regardless of background, ability, or interest. Our desire and passion to make camp an accessible and inclusive place for everyone is a major part of our mission and focus.
Sesame Place has gone to great lengths to ensure everyone’s needs are met and that everyone feels comfortable and safe. Our time at Sesame Place, was both inspiring and educational. We left with newfound realizations and ideas for the summer.
We discovered that Camp and Sesame Place are not so different after all. Here’s what we found:
- At times, camp can be just as overwhelming as a theme park can be for some campers (like the first time the camp gets together for schmooze on a Friday afternoon).
- Everyone can benefit from spaces that remove some of the elements that overwhelm us (like our Chill Zone and Zen Den.)
- We both use universal design to put up signage to help anyone who may need it, both with cabin rules, strategies to use if upset, our dining hall procedures and more.
- Both Camp Chi and Sesame Place provide them with tools and strategies to work with all the campers regardless of needs or abilities, so everyone is prepared for their experience. We also both provide plenty of resources for staff to use as they come across different challenges.
- We work continually with parents and families to make necessary adjustments and accommodations, so all campers are comfortable and ready to have a successful camp experience.
While there is much we have in common, we also left Sesame Place with some new ideas and strategies just for Chi. Here’s a sneak peak of what is coming this summer:
- A more proactive outline of situations that can be overwhelming at camp and how to handle them for first time campers and families.
- Additional spaces or places where campers can take time to themselves before rejoining the group that doesn’t take them too far away, so they can rejoin when ready and not miss the magical moments.
- We are going to increase signage in the specialty areas about rules and expectations just like we have done in the dining hall, cabins and other areas.
- We will be investing in training for all staff to experience and rate camp from a sensory standpoint to better understand the camper experience and give them tools to help address it.
Armed with the knowledge, ideas and passion to continue to live our mission, we will keep improving on ways to create a summer home that everyone can keep coming back to. Now if we could just get some Muppets to join us…