The doors of SHALVA are always open. Rain or shine, in every season, the building is a welcome home for the children of SHALVA. Things are a little bit different in the summer, though. Instead of coming for an afternoon of fun after school, SHALVA kids have an extended day all summer, as they attend the SHALVA summer program. Providing vital respite to the children and their families alike, the SHALVA summer program takes the usual recipe for fun and laughter and maximizes it, giving more hours of play, community and happiness to the children of SHALVA. After six weeks of more arts and crafts, more games and more outdoor fun, the entire programs packs up and heads down to Eilat for the best week of the entire year.
It may seem like a Herculean task, packing up over 150 SHALVA kids, all their staff and all necessary supplies for that week- and it is. It takes hundreds of hours of planning, manpower and logistical coordination to make the week come together, but it always proves itself to be a worthwhile investment- to make it the best summer ever!
For the children, it is a whirlwind week of fun in the (scorching) sun. Starting with a trip to Superland Amusement park and ending with the final banquet, the week is loaded with activities from sunrise to way after the sun has set. Water sports, beaches and pools, a trip to hang out with the Eilat police force and a day in a Biblical-based castle, every moment of the week is designed for maximum memory-making.
For the parents and families, it is an unparalleled week of respite from a hectic year caring for a special- needs child. With the children gone for 6 nights and 7 days, the parents are given a gift many parents with special needs never get. A full week of relaxation and freedom to do what they need to decompress from a long school year and rejuvenate for the year to come. With 150 children total taken care of for an entire week, that totals of 25,000 hours of respite for SHALVA parents, safe in the knowledge that their children are safe, well- cared for and having the greatest time ever.
For the staff, it is a labor of love. To organize the hundreds of donations of candy, necessities, baseball caps, arts and crafts projects, just to name a portion, is a lot to ask. Add to that taking on the responsibility of one to 2 children each, making sure the program runs smoothly and that everyone is having an incredible time- these young adults sure stepped up to the task with aplomb. The love that permeates between SHALVA child and staff is tangible. You can see it in the hugs and high- fives, you can witness it in the selfies and smiles, and you can feel it in the tears that were shed saying goodbye to our incredible volunteer staff at the end of the trip.
For SHALVA, it is one of our greatest joys. Wwe know it’s going to be a huge expense, and we count on the generosity of our sponsors to make this dream a reality. We know that each year we have to top the one before it, and that may fill some people with stress, but it’s what we thrive on. We are always planning, always tweaking the schedule to pack in more smiles-per-minute than the year before. And the proof is in the pudding. Just looking at the kids beaming faces in their pictures, hearing the non-stop music and singing that accompanies every activity, and hearing the effusive laughter and excitement from the children themselves, makes all the hard work and planning entirely worth it.
Now we are back to reality. The paint is being touched up and the cushions cleaned. The shelves are being restocked and a new staff is heading for orientation. Soon a new school year here at SHALVA will begin, and the reality of classes and after school activities will resume. But we will be planning for next summer, of course, and thinking of new ways to make next year the best summer ever!