2023 Imagine That! Grant Recipient Is…
Five years ago, the JCC Chicago Women’s Board created the Imagine That! grant to help JCC day and overnight camps create new programmatic opportunities for summer camp. Every year, the Women’s Board awards the Imagine That! grant to an idea that is fun, inclusive, supports a Jewish lens, enhances campers’ lives, and can be shared across other JCC Chicago camps.
This year, the JCC Chicago Women’s Board is excited to award the Imagine That! grant to:
Apachi Evanston for its Mindful Moments Through Inclusive Play
Coming this summer, the Mindful Moments Through Inclusive Play spaces will offer campers a place to get physically active, self-regulate, reconnect with their peers, and take ownership and responsibility in building their community. The program will be available to more than 500 campers and 100+ staff.
Andrea Merfeld, Apachi Evanston Director, said, “The pandemic forced kids to spend more time indoors and online. These calming play spaces will provide campers with the opportunity to center themselves while remaining engaged with their peers in a shared outdoor space.”
The new spaces will feature gymnastics equipment, a Zen walking meditation path, a Zen Garden with a vegetable garden, calming Yogibo chairs, and a gross motor sensory path. Merfeld says all these elements will create a functional community space that teaches campers how to utilize movement as a tool to maintain and achieve internal self-regulation to then self-reintegrate into their community.
“We are also working with an occupational therapist who will help us to appropriately create an inclusive environment for all campers, as well as provide training to our staff during orientation week. Their role will be able to not only educate the staff on how to utilize the space, but they will work with camp counselors on how to be proactive in supporting all campers. We have found that since the pandemic, our campers have been struggling with emotional stability and the ability to access language to advocate for themselves to stay engaged within their peers. We want to create an environment centered around teaching campers’ how to feel confident in their true selves,” Merfeld added.
“Build Upon Relationships, Connect to the Outdoors, Develop Courage Ometz Lev, Build Community (Kehilla), Repair The World (Tikkun Olam)”
The Mindful Moments Through Inclusive Play spaces will support Apachi Evanston’s core values of kindness, honesty, peace, respect, and friendship. Plus, it will also touch on other Jewish values such as Ometz Lev (Courage), Kehilla (Community), and Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World).
Merfeld adds, “It takes courage to be seen and to see others in their most vulnerable moments and our campers will be able to step up and be a friend during those moments. It also takes courage to challenge yourself to complete activities that may be new or unfamiliar. We’re incorporating a gymnastics piece because not only is it physically challenging, there’s also a mentally challenging aspect that we can help support campers’ confidence in tackling new or unfamiliar obstacles.”
The campers will learn Kehilla (Community) and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) by working together in the Zen Garden to plant, weed, water, and pick vegetables. Campers will also work together to create the Zen walking path which will be a community-centric art piece made while at camp.
“We want our campers to build the courage to join their community not only at camp, but in the outside world as they build their confidence to attempt new activities in various settings (camp, school, and community).”
Past Imagine That! Grant Recipients include:
- 2022 – Hammock Village at ‘Z’ Frank Apachi
- 2021 – Outdoor Adventure Center and Archery Range at Apachi Rogers Park
- 2020 – Outdoor Peace Room at Apachi Northside, Apachi Old Town and Apachi Hyde Park
- 2019 – Israeli Village at Camp Chi