One Happy Apachi Camper!
At the J, we want every child to experience an amazing summer! We strive to create a camp community where every camper feels safe, supported, and included so they can gain independence, form friendships, and build confidence throughout the summer. Lauren Schrero shares her daughter Nora experienced just that while attending ‘Z’ Frank Apachi Day Camp in Northbrook this summer. Take a closer look at how she says the J is ensuring Nora leaves everyday experiencing the best things camp has to offer.
The Apachi bus rolled up as it always does last Thursday afternoon. It stopped. The driver waived. My daughter Nora slowly made her way up the aisle, gabbing louder and faster than usual. She was sweaty from a day of fun. Perfectly sunkissed. T-shirt dirty, chew necklace hanging well used around her neck. She grabbed the railing alongside the stairs and slowly made her way down, carefully focused on each step. And then, as her feet settled into the driveway beneath her, she spread her arms wide and ran with abandon around the driveway, showing me in the way she loves best, that she is so very full of joy. Nora is one, happy, Apachi camper.
The first session of Apachi Day Camp at ‘Z’ Frank Apachi in Northbrook has been a dream for Nora, and I’m not the least bit surprised. In the last several years, the J has upped its inclusion game in a serious way–showing in ways big and small that every member of their community matters deeply. Camp is no exception. The efforts the JCC Chicago Social Services and Apachi Day Camp teams have gone to this year to train staff, partner with families, plan for a variety of camper needs, and incorporate the value of inclusion into every aspect of camp are evident.
Nora is attending camp this summer with her therapeutic companion, Aurea. Aurea was included in all of the pre-camp training with the rest of the Apachi staff and has been embraced as a member of the ‘Z’ Frank Apachi team. With Aurea’s support, Nora has made incredible artwork, lots of beautiful music, and best of all, so many friends! Every day they come home with wonderful stories, like the time they were making bracelets and Aurea facilitated Nora’s craft by holding up two beads at a time and asking her which she wanted to put on the string next. Before long, all of Nora’s friends were holding up beads and asking Nora to help them choose which one to add to their bracelets, too. Aurea also reports many times during the day when she steps back entirely, watching as Nora’s groupmates seamlessly support her in the ways they’ve observed Aurea doing so – holding her hands, giving her chewies to regulate, and dancing in the grass. When it’s clear you matter to your community, you can feel it in your soul. And this summer, Nora’s soul is glowing.
As I watched her run around the driveway last week, I thought to myself, ‘this is one of those moments you look back on at the end of your life and smile.’ I’m so grateful to JCC Chicago, and the whole ‘Z’ Frank Apachi team for giving my daughter a magical summer.
Lauren Schrero is a staff attorney at Equip for Equality working on the Civil Rights Team. She’s the co-founder of The Nora Project, the first disability studies-informed curriculum provider in the country. Her TedX Talk, titled Ability Inclusive Mindset, has more than 60,000 views.
Lauren lives in Highland Park with her husband Adam, her two daughters Nora and Sadie, and their dog. Nora has attended both Apachi Village Northbrook with the support of Keshet and this year is attending ‘Z’ Frank Apachi with support from JCC Chicago. Over the last few years, The Nora Project has been utilized in both the JCC Chicago Early Childhood sites and at Apachi Day Camp.