For everyone at Camp Daron, this summer was different. The story of one little boy inspired teens to work together and donate a $1,000 grant to Gift of Life. Rabbi Avichai Pepper runs the camp, and this year, he began the summer by telling the 55 campers about the child of a couple he knows named Ezra, who was diagnosed with a rare primary immune disorder, the only cure for which is a stem cell transplant. Campers took Ezra’s story to heart. They began reading Ezra’s blog and checking his facebook page for updates. Since camp has ended, they continue to send facebook messages to Rabbi Pepper asking for updates on this little boy.
Camp Darom was selected by the Jewish Teen Funders Network to participate in a teen philanthropy program. The teens learned about giving, non-profit organization, and functioning as a foundation board to review requests for proposals and award grants. Rabbi Pepper sat amazed and proud at the 12 and 13 year-olds who interviewed different non-profits and deliberated which one they wanted to give the grant money to.
Rabbi Pepper called Gift of Life’s Director of Development to fill out a grant proposal. Soon after, 22 campers put her on the spot trying to gather all the information they could on Gift of Life. She admits that she was a bit nervous to be interviewed by such a large number of teens at once; however, they seemed to have liked what they heard.
The decision to give the entire $1,000 to Gift of Life was not an easy one. Five teens wanted to give $200 to another organization until one girl spoke out saying that if they split up the money that would be $200 less that was given to Gift of Life, and that could be the $200 that went to finding a match for a patient in need. With those words, all 22 campers conceded.
Rabbi Pepper wanted to teach the lesson that a small group can still make a difference in someone’s life. They seemed to have taken from this activity exactly what the Rabbi hoped they would, “realizing there are so many people in need, and that it’s not always so hard to help them.” What Rabbi Pepper referred to as being not “so hard” paid for test kits that can be used to find matches for patients in need. That’s a big difference in the lives of many.
In addition to the grant the campers awarded to Gift of Life, camp staff members who were eligible to join the registry were given the opportunity to swab their cheeks as part of Gift of Life’s “Finding the Hero in You at Camp” Program. The Rabbi felt honored that he was able educate his campers about how easy it can be to save a life. There is a great deal of truth in Rabbi Pepper’s message to his campers, “we can save someone’s life by doing a small act,” and that may be exactly what they did.
Rabbi Pepper’s dedication to Gift of Life didn’t end with camp; he strapped his “Finding the Hero in You at Camp” banner to the back of his Winnebago and is currently driving around the county hoping that fellow drivers are inspired to donate. (To view the Winnebago, check out the Gift of Life Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/giftoflife).
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