By Zach Itzkovitz
For a b’nai mitzvah project, Jeremy Leven, Danny Raymon and Jay Satisky decided to do something a little different. They are spearheading a flag football tournament whose proceeds will go to Camp Living Wonders, a summer camp for Jews ages 7 to 25 with special needs.
Kickoff for Camp Living Wonders will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 19, at the Weber School, 6751 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. Entry is $36.
The boys’ goal was to raise $3,500 to send one camper to what may be the greatest experience of his or her young life, but Camp Director Noah Pawliger said they are already well beyond their goal.
“They’ve already raised enough to send one camper to camp,” Pawliger said, “and I just thought that was mind-blowing. They’re on track to get another one by next week.”
Pawliger spoke highly of Jeremy, Danny and Jay and said the change they are making extends far beyond themselves.
“It means that the value of the camp and the influence that the camp is having on other kids is starting to be understood as something that’s important for all kids,” Pawliger said. “I’m liking that the three of them really learned about the camp. We’re providing a Jewish camp experience for a lot of kids who probably never had the same opportunity to have a great Jewish camp experience as they had.”
The camp serves people with autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, Tourette syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disease, among others.
This year’s camp starts June 14 at Camp Arrowhead near Asheville, N.C., and some slots remain. A 19-day session and two nine-day session are available. To learn more, visit camplivingwonders.org, or contact Pawliger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I always knew I wanted to run a camp from a very young age,” Pawliger said. “But it wasn’t until I started volunteering and working with the special needs population at the same age as Jeremy and his friends that I realized, ‘There’s a big need for this, and these kids deserve and need opportunities to be a part of the community.’ ”
Pawliger noted how the three boys changed the morale of the campers. He also observed a growth in the boys themselves.
“It gave them a little more sensitivity and a more inclusive mind-set towards them,” Pawliger said. “For our campers, it’s a few more people who are passionate enough to go and tell their story to their friends. It’s a very powerful thing, coming from a community that these kids are often excluded from.”
Jeremy, 13, remembered his own invaluable summer experiences and wanted someone who may never have had the opportunity to have the same experiences.
“I’ve been going to camp for the last four years and having a great time,” Jeremy said. “I thought it would be a good idea to take my time and raise money so a kid could have a lifetime experience at camp.”
Jeremy and his friends thought that a football tournament would be a fun and healthy way to raise money for a great cause.
“I used to play football, and I play baseball and basketball too,” Jeremy said. “We just thought it would be an easier thing to do. A couple of my friends did basketball tournaments, so we wanted to switch it up and maybe do a football tournament.”
Camp Living Wonders has many opportunities, and not just for youth with special needs. High school juniors and seniors are eligible for the camp’s staff-in-training program, which is fully inclusive.
“It’s an opportunity for teenagers who want to learn how to work with this population and want to learn how to make a big impact on a person’s life,” Pawliger said. “It’s a life-changing experience — it will probably shake the rest of their life and change their viewpoint on what communities should look like, and our camp really reflects what a Jewish community should look like.”