News from the Alumni Engagement Task Force
By Sophie Kaplan
Camp was always a topic at the dinner table in my house, even before my brother and I were campers. My mom, Nancy Kaehler Kaplan, was a camper at Harlam in the 70s and she told me endless stories of her adventures with her camp friends – like where Gary Gershman got the nickname Monk from, and how she and her friends soaped the supervisors’ cars with quotes from the Founding Fathers as a 4th of July prank. My own personal experience of camp was limited to what I gleaned from the alumni days we attended as a family. I had memories of the light shining through the green canopy in the Chapel in the Woods, surrounded by people dressed in white. I remember the first time I saw the Tower, which excited a young Sophie, who was notorious for climbing literally anything. So when it was my turn to drive through the gates of camp for the first time as a camper, I knew for a fact that camp was going to have trees and that I would have a lot of fun and make great friends. But what I didn’t expect was the strong sense of community that is the lifeline of any summer in the Pocono Mountains.
As a first-time camper in the summer of 2007, I could sense the warmth of the community camp created, where everyone is encouraged to be our best selves and to explore our values and how we connect with each other. The bonds that camp creates between all of us are so special! As I transitioned into adulthood, I wondered how my connection to camp would evolve and if I would have to wait until I sent my future children to camp to feel as close to that community again.
Fear not! My wait did not last long. About two years after my last summer on staff, my dear friend, Molly Diamondstein, and I decided to become members of the Camp Council just before camp closed for the first time in its over 60 summer history because of a global pandemic. The news of camp closing was heartbreaking, especially since it was accompanied with a massive deficit in funds.
Molly and I were inspired to gear our fundraising efforts toward young alumni. We believed that there were a lot of young people who would give to camp but just hadn’t been asked yet. So we organized a group of about 20 alumni to solicit donations from people our own age. Camp friends that I hadn’t talked to in years were eager to donate to camp. After many fundraisers – including a bake sale, trivia night, friendship bracelet sale, tie-dye t-shirt fundraiser, and camp-themed sticker sale – we raised over $15,000 in a few months. The community at-large came together to raise over a million dollars to ensure the future of camp.
This outpouring of support from alumni, campers, parents, and friends has inspired us to recommit ourselves to a robust alumni engagement plan. There will be new opportunities to connect with the Camp Harlam community, with programming for young alumni, families, and veteran alumni. Over the next year, this page will be updated with a calendar of events, such as Rosh Chodesh, trivia nights, Tot Shabbats, virtual happy hours, and networking opportunities. We are excited to engage the Harlam community in new and exciting ways and we hope you will join us in the fun.
To learn more about Harlam’s alumni efforts or to get further involved with camp, please email Judith Friedman at JGFriedman@URJ.org.