Jessica Tayler simply had no idea what she was going to do.
Her middle child, Ellie, was set to attend Camp Havaya, a Reconstructionist overnight camp, for two weeks. Then Ellie would come home and spend the rest of the summer at Ramah Day Camp in Elkins Park.
But in the spring, each camp announced that it would be suspending in-person activities for the summer. Tayler, a mother of three, was in a bind.
How would she find the time to do what she needed to do with three young children at home? And how could she make sure that Ellie got the anticipated social interaction and fun programming?
In came Camp Fox, a new, online-only summer camp that Ellie, 8, has attended with joy.
“It’s the best thing ever,” Tayler said.
A normal week at Camp Fox requires a single Zoom log-in for a child, which Tayler mentioned as a particularly nice touch; when her kids were in school, each class required a different link, which could get lost in the shuffle. During the day, campers have had programs dedicated to break dancing, martial arts, cooking, songwriting, zoology, theater and more. One recent day even included a “tour” of Israel, led by Danny Stein, a teacher at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel.
“Everything has been so easy,” Tayler said.
The camp is the project of a pair of anonymous donors, who have joined with the Kaiserman JCC and a laundry list of partners (nonprofit and corporate) to provide the program.
Camp programming, which will continue until Aug. 14, is offered every weekday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is free and open to anyone with an internet connection. Many of the participants are local, but the camp has begun to draw campers from as far as Georgia and Minnesota, too.
Around the time that Tayler and other parents were scrambling to find daily activities for their children, the anonymous donors were doing the same for their own daughter. What if, they asked each other, they marshaled their own resources, along with those of larger organizations, to try and solve the problem for themselves?
The donors got in touch with Amy Krulik, executive director of the Kaiserman JCC. Krulik and her staff had been so busy planning for an in-person version of Camp Kef, she said, that previous plans for online camp had been put to the side. When the donors approached her with a well-developed plan, Krulik was thrilled.
“It became a really easy partnership for us,” Krulik said.
Scrambling to put together weeks of programming for children in the K-5 range, Krulik and the donors reached out to other larger organizations for help, both financially and programming-wise. Many of them have answered the call.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia provided a grant. Additional programming and support has come from the National Museum of American Jewish History, the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, the Elmwood Park Zoo, jKidPhilly, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Wolf Performing Arts Center, the Philadelphia Insect & Butterfly Museum, Bred2Burn, Snapology, Pro Martial Arts and more.
Not every online camp, according to Krulik, has been able to provide so much programming formatted for the web. “Some of it was fantastic, and some of it fell a little short of fantastic,” she said. Camp Fox, she believes, has been able to do more than simply film or stream regular camp activities.
“It’s a daily experience in something that makes you think, laugh, makes you happy, makes you curious. It satisfies all those things,” she said.