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The Bear Family: One Stone at a Time

Yael Mermelstein

Going to sleepaway camp when you’re a kid in a wheelchair is complicated

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Photo: Nechama Leibler

This summer I decided to go to sleepaway camp for the first time. My mother said this was a “really big move” in my life. That’s because going to sleepaway camp when you’re a kid in a wheelchair is complicated. My parents are like my second backbone. Being without them is scary for me. Of course Gavriel Farber came with me, but that’s still not the same as having your mother and father around. 

Gavriel and I managed to figure out ways to help me to do almost all of the activities that the rest of the boys did. Arts and crafts, no problem, they got me a special glue gun I could control with my mouth. It was pretty awesome, especially when I accidentally glued my friend to his chair, but that’s a different story for another time. Softball, no issue, TJ ran the bases just fine, and they let me use a rubber bat and pitched it to me really slow. It worked. I even played basketball. I couldn’t take shots, but I could pass as well as the next guy.

Photo: Nechama Leibler

I was having a grand old summer. I wasn’t even particularly homesick. 

On Tuesday, everyone was waiting for the big announcement. Every Tuesday the camp director, Moshe Schmerling, announced the BIG IDEA of the week. There was always something exciting going on at Camp Ma-Ra-Bu. One week we had a toilet paper race, don’t even ask what that is, but it was mighty fun. Another week we played capture the flag and the winning team got a trip to Shakey’s Ice Cream Shop (I was on the losing team). But this week was Tishah B’Av, so I imagined it wouldn’t be anything too big. 

“Attention, Camp Ma-Ra-Bu!” Moshe Schmerling called out over the microphone in the middle of the dining room. Everyone cheered. Everyone cheers every time Moshe Schmerling starts talking, it’s just one of those camp things. 

“It’s time for the Tuesday BIG IDEA! This week, l’chavod Tishah B’Av, we’re going to be building our very own Ma-Ra-Bu model of the Kosel Hamaaravi of the Beis Hamikdash!”

There was even more cheering.

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