Overnight Success: Friendship Circle Summer Camp Brings Fun and Community to Those in Isolation

Swimming, boating and a talent show were highlights at sleepaway camp at North Star Reach

Arts and crafts, boating, swimming and singing could all be found at Friendship Circle Summer Camp, Dedicated in Loving Memory of Jamey Moray z”l by Randy and Craig Rubin. With families facing social isolation due to COVID-19, the West Bloomfield-based nonprofit organized four one-week sessions of sleepaway camp for kids and adults with special needs.

Friendship Circle’s mission is to provide community, friendship and support — and families need it now more than ever. With families facing isolation more than ever due to COVID-19, Friendship Circle was determined to find a way to step up for families safely.

With expert guidance from Dr. Robert Stein, Friendship Circle designed the sleepaway camp with safety as the number one priority. Holding activities outdoors, wearing masks, and frequent screening for symptoms kept campers, staff and volunteers safe.

Charles Zwierzchowski, the parent to Brandon and Daniel, said the brothers had a fantastic time at summer camp and are already counting down the months until next year.

“Daniel hasn’t stopped talking about it now for close to a week. They enjoyed their volunteers, boat rides and everything else,” said Zwierzchowski. “He is already asking about next year and if he should pack his stuff now!”

Camp took place at North Star Reach in Pickney, Mich., a campground that normally offers camp for children with serious health challenges. Since those with more serious health challenges were unable to attend camp this year, North Star Reach teamed up with Friendship Circle to provide camp to those with special needs.

One parent began smiling and tearing up because it was the first time they had had a break in months, said Rabbi Yarden Blumstein, director of the camp. It was the first time in seven years that they were not with their child for a night. And for many campers, this is their first time sleeping away from home.

“The ability for that family to recharge before they head back into the unknown, that’s motivation for me,” said Blumstein. “This is more than just a fun camp, it’s a lifesaver for people.”

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