The first big white tent went up early in June, just southeast of where the Big Dry Creek Trail crosses under 112th Avenue. Rabbi Benjy Brackman said he was unsure of how Chabad of NW Metro Denver …
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The first big white tent went up early in June, just southeast of where the Big Dry Creek Trail crosses under 112th Avenue.
Rabbi Benjy Brackman said he was unsure of how Chabad of NW Metro Denver was going to handle its camps for the summer of 2020, with the added burdens of COVID-19 and social distancing in place.
And, as if to confirm his suspicions, the Broomfield elementary school where he planned to host his signature summer camp, Camp Kind, announced that the space would be unavailable.
“This year, with COVID, everything came to as screeching halt,” he said. “There were no camps, no places to volunteer and no buses to get the kids around. School district’s are not renting them out and plus, if you were able to get a bus, you’d need twice as many just to give the kids space and keep everyone socially distanced.”
That was a special problem for one of Brackman’s signature summer camps, Camp Kind. It depended on getting the kids out in the community, volunteering at area non-profits.
“But we’ve been working, over the last couple of years, to develop a kindness curriculum for that,” Brackman said. “We have been coming up with programs and projects that we can do in camp.”
And, Brackman had an open lot next to the Chabad’s headquarters, just grass and dirt.
“So we thought about doing camp here, and the more we thought about it, the more it made sense,” Brackman said. “Because of social distancing, we’d want the kids to be outside. That makes it a more relaxed and if they are outside, the kids don’t have to wear their masks the whole time. And the kids and the parents liked that.”
All outdoor now
And so, the first tent went up on the open lot just west of the Chabad’s 112th Avenue location.
It was joined by a second tent a few days later, and then some port-a-lets and three outdoor plastic sinks so the kids don’t have to go inside to wash their hands.
“It’s all outdoor now,” Brackman said. “Right now, we have great programs to offer. But as important, we need to make sure the kids are safe. Our parents want to make sure that their kids are social distancing and those tents help us provide for that. They are big, 400 square foot tents and the kids can stay socially distant while they are engaging in their activities. Each kid has their own tote that has everything they’ll need for whatever activity they’re doing, so they are not sharing anything with the other kids.”
By the end of June, there were five tents — plus a pirate ship-shaped inflatable water slide. And camp was on.
“It works really well,” he said. “The kids love being outside. Even when it gets hot, they are shaded. We have the water slide and games and everyone is having a good time.”
Their even safe from inclement weather.
“We had one day last week it was cold, so we made bonfire in our fire pit and made smores,” he said.
The Chabad of NW Metro Denver offers two camps this year, the Jewish-themed Camp Gan Izzy and Camp Kind, which is open to everyone. While Camp Gan Izzy offers a straightforward summer camp — with crafts, games and songs — the five-year-old Camp Kind offers a broader experience. Campers learn about local non-profit and charity groups and then go out and visit them and help out.
“It not religious in any way,” he said. “They are learning about kindness, and in previous years they’ve gone to food banks and outdoor areas where they helped pick up trash or pull weeds. And on and on and on. Each day the kids were running to a different charity.”
And so far keeping the campers on the Chabad’s complex has worked well, Brackman said, despite have to rethink Camp Kind’s reason for existing. Now, instead of venturing out to local non-profits the Camp Kind kids stay at NW Chabad’s compound under the bright white tents. There, they learn about the non-profits they would normal visit and make crafts and other things to help them out.
“We’re not even trying to do field trips,” he said.
In addition to everyday camp activities like games and crafts, each day of the week has a theme: Mondays are built around being kind to each other, Tuesdays about being kind to animals, Wednesdays to seniors, Thursdays to front line workers and Friday to the environment.
Activities have included making chew toys or treats for animals in local pet shelters, decorating onesies for newborns, making soap for area women’s shelters and recycling old T-shirts or sweaters into grocery store shopping bags or decorative pillows.
“We received a donation of pet toys,” he said. “What we do is make a little gift not on each one and it works as gift for people that adopt an animal. We take them up to Boulder to the animal shelter, the Humane Society. That’s one of the places we’d normally get to visit, but not we get to do something for them.”
The camps are scheduled to run through the end of July, with between 20 and 30 kids in Camp Kind and another 20 attending Camp Gan Izzy.
“It’s down a little bit from last year,” he said. “But I think in every industry, this was the year when everything went down a little bit.”
He’s hoping the last two weeks will be bigger, with an busier version of Camp Kind aimed at teens. They’ll make meals for shut-ins, help repair bikes to be given away to needy kids and make blankets and soap. While Camp Kind is open to kids as young as five-years-old, this version is limited to teens between 13 and 15.
“But they’ll be doing a lot of the things these kids do, but with a little bit more care and precision,” Brackman said. “Last week they made yard signs and soap. For the older kids, they’ll have a little bit more artistic value going in there. The whole operation will be a little more detailed.”
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