A Visit to Sesame Place

Robyn Diamond12.19.19
Last week Ramah Darom’s Director of Camper Care and Tikvah Support, Dr. Audra Kaplan, and Director of Camp Yofi, Susan Teckteil, spent some time learning at Sesame Place. They joined representatives from 15 other Jewish camps, including three other Ramah camps, that received Yashar Initiative grants from the Foundation for Jewish Camp to improve accessibility of Jewish camps.

Camp professionals from Ramah Day Camp In Nyack, Camp Ramah in the Poconos, Camp Ramah California and Ramah Darom together at Sesame Place

Sesame Place is the first theme park in the world designated as a certified autism center. There are designated quiet rooms and spaces throughout the park, a downloadable sensory guide, a Ride Accessibility Program (RAP) and so much more.

At this training, 41 camp professionals from all over the United States, had the chance to learn about IBCCES, the credentialing body that has worked with Sesame Place, Sea World, and school districts across the country to improve inclusion and accessibility of individuals with autism. Yashar Grant participants will also have the opportunity to take a credential course towards either an AUTISM CERTIFICATE or as a CERTIFIED AUTISM SPECIALIST.

Audra and Susan hanging out in Big Bird’s nest

Audra posted the following on social media, “It was amazing to learn about Sesame Place’s designation as the first autism-friendly amusement park! I’m excited to bring some new ideas around sensory awareness to Ramah Darom! Thank you to Foundation for Jewish Camp for organizing this amazing training”

Tikvah supported camper, Max, washing the new golf cart

Ramah Darom is using funds from the Yashar Grant to repave and extend roads, grade a pathway down to the lakefront, add ramps to all gazebos and add electric doors to the main dining hall building. Last summer, Ramah Darom also used the funds to purchase a six-passenger golf cart used specifically for individuals with mobility challenges.

“The Yashar Grant project will enhance physical accessibility for all Ramah Darom programs, allowing children and adults with physical accommodations to better access our campus,” said Audra.

Ramah Darom has two incredible programs supporting children with autism spectrum disorder, the Tikvah Support Program and Camp Yofi.

The Henry and Annette Gibson Tikvah Support Program supports 2, 4 and 8-week campers with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, communication disorders, ADHD, anxiety disorders and other disabilities at Camp Ramah Darom. In 2019 our Tikvah program supported 63 campers and two previous Tikvah supported campers joined the Tikvah vocation program working in the Camp office, art room, kitchen, daycare and other areas throughout Camp.

Camp Yofi is a family camp for children ages 6-13 with autism spectrum disorder and their families. Yofi takes place after summer Camp is over. This past year, 25 families, including 48 children and 6 grandparents attend Camp Yofi.

The Yashar Grant is a $12 million initiative generously funded by the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation to increase accessibility for campers and staff with disabilities at Jewish summer day and overnight camps. In total, 16 Jewish Camps received Yashar Grant funds in 2019.