DALLAS TWP. — Terry and Soni Baltimore’s visit to the JCC Summer Camp Friends of Camp Luncheon on Aug. 4 brought back a lot of childhood memories from their experience nearly 58 years ago.
“We had a brief romance,” Terry said. “It was 1958 or 1959; we went to the JCC Camp when it was at the Twin Lakes location. We were about 13 and 14 years old.”
The Friends of Camp luncheon is an annual event designed to express appreciation to a combination of nearly 100 individuals and organizations whose donations provide scholarships and programming services to the 40-acre facility in Dallas Township.
“You just don’t understand what you did to help this community,” Rick Evans, the camp director, told about 50 Friends of Camp who attended the luncheon at the Dallas Township facility.
Evans estimated the camp alumni donated over $100,000 to support the organization’s ability to host nearly 300 children between the ages of 3 and 14.
“We want to provide these children some of the (camp) experiences we had,” Terry said.
As for Terry and Soni’s romance — it was over at the end of that summer.
They didn’t see each other again until 1967 when Terry returned home from college and saw Soni at Pocono Downs in Plains Township.
They married in 1969 and now help support the summer program that brought them together.
Stories from the JCC Summer Camp Friends of Camp vary but contain one common thread, which is the program had a profound effect on the lives of the storytellers, and they want to pay it forward.
For Bruce Birnbaum, of Kingston, the summer program set him on a different career path.
“I switched careers from being an accountant to becoming a teacher,” the 63-year-old said.
Birnbaum was a camper and then worked as a camp counselor.
“I was here as a child in the 1960s,” he said. “I was a counselor from 1972 for about five years; that was what got me started wanting to switch careers.”
Birnbaum enjoyed working with children and recalled he had one group for four years.
“I had them in fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth (grades),” he said. “I was invited to all of their bar mitzvahs because we were that close.”
Birnbaum taught in the Wyoming Valley West School District for 33 years.
The ‘Noar Camp’ trips are what Susan (Rudin) Rudofker remembers most from her summers at the JCC Summer Camp.
“In 1982, we went up north to New England, Connecticut, Massachusetts and into Canada,” she said. “We had fun. We stayed in different JCC Camps along the way.”
“We had the best times.”
Rudofker’s experience inspired her to send her daughter Haley to the summer program.
Now 17, Haley started attending camp when she was 3 years old and continued to go for 10 years.
“It (camp) got me interested in playing the guitar,” she said.
Jesse Savitz reminisced a little with Rudofker about the variety of trips the camp offered. The Kingston resident was a bus driver for the JCC Summer Camp from 1991 to 2006.
A big smile stretched across his face as he told a story about chasing tents across Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.
“I was supposed to stay in the hotel,” he said, but his intuition about a rainstorm deterred him from going to his hotel room.
Weather conditions deteriorated, and he ushered about 50 sleepy campers and counselors on to the bus and proceeded to chase down tents, which were blowing across the beach.
“I had great times with this camp,” Savitz said, laughing.
On Friday, the elder campers added another story to their JCC Summer Camp scrapbook as they witnessed a new generation of campers learning Hebrew words, new skills and just having summer fun.