When Camp Barney Medintz reopens this summer, campers will undoubtedly be excited to return to their summer home-away-from-home after it was closed during the 2020 pandemic. The changes they will notice upon returning include a new 400 square-foot sensory cabin known as The Den, donated in large part by Atlantans Gail and Lyons Heyman.
“The Den is designed to provide proven sensory soothing methods for campers of all backgrounds who need various levels of support to feel cared for during their time at camp and help campers get the most out of the camp experience,” said Camp Director Jim Mittenthal.
“We are so grateful to those who have provided very thoughtful and generous resources to us to construct and provide this very cool and meaningful new space at Camp Barney,” Mittenthal added.
“Perched on a hilltop overlooking one of our Camp lakes, The Den is intended as a warm and comfortable place for campers and staff to engage with or receive support from our professional Camp Barney Medintz Camper Care staff or simply to get a respite from the ‘noise’ of camp life,” he said.
Emily Shapiro, CBM inclusion director and Camper Care team member, explained further. “For some campers, going from the isolation and quiet of the past year to the highly stimulating overnight camp environment could bring some challenges.”
In addition to the Heymans’ donation, The Den was made possible with the support of a $55,000 Yashar (level, integrity) Initiative matching grant from the Foundation for Jewish Camp, in partnership with The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. The establishment of The Den is part of a larger initiative by Camp Barney Medintz, which received a Yedid Nefesh (beloved soul) grant from the FJC along with The Marcus Foundation and the Ron & Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust to address mental, emotional and social health (MESH) needs in the camp community.
“The Den is the ideal space for campers to process emotions, take needed breaks, interact with therapists, and escape the bustle that sometimes accompanies an overnight camping environment,” Mittenthal said.
“The Den is comprised of two sensory rooms – one for younger campers and one for teens. The rooms are equipped with sensory equipment, visual aids, a LEGO wall, musical instruments, calming art and more.
“The Den will also be home to Camp Barney’s Community Care team. Introduced in 2019, this team of licensed therapists and mental health professionals is on-site all summer to provide mental health support for campers and staff. Camp Barney is proud to now have this support network in place every summer, and particularly this summer to help kids work through any stress and anxiety associated with living through a global pandemic.”
The Den includes two 8-by-10 rooms with a Camper Care team office in between them and a 170-square-foot covered deck with outside seating for a peaceful outdoor view.
Gail Goldstein Heyman attended Barney from 1964 to 1971 as a camper and counselor and later became a camp parent. “The Den will be a meaningful resource for many individuals. As we know, camp is a lot of fun, but life in general and especially while being away from home at sleepaway camp can be a challenge.
“Our vision is The Den will give campers and staff a place to chill out and learn coping skills. It is our hope that The Den provides a source of calm and lessens unnecessary stressors in life to contribute to a happy and positive experience at Camp Barney.”