Camp Dream Street recognized as Slingshot Innovator

Camp Dream Street Mississippi has been named one of 18 leading Jewish organizations committed to fostering inclusion of people with disabilities in one of two new supplements to the Slingshot Guide.

Dream Street is a five-day, four-night camping program for children with physical disabilities. The camp is held on the grounds of the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, and is sponsored by the National Federation of Temple Youth’s Southern Region, with the staffing done on a volunteer basis by NFTY members.

Dream Street was founded in 1975 with the mission that all children, regardless of their abilities, must be offered the chance to have fun, to make new friends, to achieve, to be accepted for who and what they are, and to learn from the challenges of group life.

Each summer there are 60 campers, generally with diagnoses including cerebral palsy, spina bifida, limb deficiencies, spinal cord injury, communicative disorders and other developmental disabilities.

The Slingshot Guide, now in its ninth year, was created by a team of young funders as a guidebook to help funders of all ages diversify their giving portfolios to include the most innovative and effective organizations, programs and projects in North America.

The main guide lists 50 finalists each year. Some organizations that have been included for numerous years have been designated Standard Bearers, there are 17 such groups.

The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson is a Standard Bearer, as is Moishe House, which has a branch in New Orleans. AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, which also has a New Orleans location, was listed as a finalist.

In recent years, ISJL has started partnering with other Slingshot groups on projects.

Being listed in the Guide is often a critical step for selected organizations to attain much needed additional funding and to expand the reach of their work.

This year, Slingshot came out with two new supplements, each with 18 organizations. In addition to the disabilities supplement, there is one for groups positively affecting the lives of women and girls.

Selected from among hundreds of finalists reviewed by 83 professionals with expertise in grant-making and Jewish communal life, the Guide notes that Dream Street Mississippi “uses creative methods in its approach to offering physical activities for campers who have physical challenges, while providing a high-impact, hands-on program for Jewish teen volunteers. Dream Street is unique in that it is volunteer led and cost-free to participants.”

Organizations included in this year’s disability and inclusion supplement were evaluated on their innovative approach, the impact they have in their work, the leadership they have in their sector, and their effectiveness at achieving results.

“Dream Street Mississippi is proud to be among the 18 organizations included in this brand new supplement for meeting those standards,” said Scott Levy, Dream Street Mississippi Chairman. “The organizations included in Slingshot’s disability and inclusion supplement are helping to break down barriers and build opportunity for engagement for those with special needs — both within and beyond the Jewish community — as never before.”

Also recognized was the Camp Ramah Tikvah Network, an incubator for young Jewish professionals who are motivated and trained to work in the Jewish disabilities community. Some come from the Camp Yofi program at Ramah Darom in Georgia.

Camp Yofi is a five-day camp program for Jewish families with children who are on the autism spectrum.