BunkConnect seeks to make summer camp more affordable

Birmingham campers at Camp Barney Medintz in Georgia

In an effort to make Jewish summer camping more affordable for families, the Foundation for Jewish Camp has launched BunkConnect, a national program that matches eligible families with non-profit Jewish summer camps.

“BunkConnect marries best practices from the business world, new technologies and learnings from the hospitality industry, and takes a fresh approach to addressing affordability in Jewish life,” said Michael Leven, president and COO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., former camper and counselor, and key program funder. “I am very excited to bring this program to a national stage and see how we can help more kids have a summer experience like those that were so meaningful to me many years ago.”

After applicants supply some basic, confidential information online, the BunkConnect website matches families with available summer camps at a 40 to 60 percent discount. Some camps offer the discounted rate for a second summer.

BunkConnect has 75 participating camps, representing various movements and denominations. Participating camps in the region include Adamah Adventures, Camp Barney Medintz, Camp Judaea, Ramah Darom, Camp Sabra in Missouri, Camp Young Judaea Texas, Camp Coleman and the Greene Family Camp.

The program is for first-time campers, basing eligibility on a family’s adjusted gross income, number of dependent children and place of legal residency. For example, through BunkConnect, a family with two children living in Illinois with a maximum adjusted gross income of $145,000 can realize the dream of Jewish camp.

The expense of Jewish day school enrollment is also taken into account to determine eligibility.

“Families want to send their children to Jewish camp. By matching their desire with available summer experiences, we are opening new avenues of access,” said Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of FJC. “BunkConnect is changing how we look at scholarship, affordability, and capacity for Jewish camp and beyond.”

BunkConnect is a program of Foundation for Jewish Camp with The Center for Entrepreneurial Jewish Philanthropy, made possible by funding from The AVI CHAI Foundation, The Leader Family Foundation, The Michael and Andrea Leven Family Foundation, and The Jack and Goldie Wolfe Miller Fund with additional support from Eileen and Jerry Lieberman.

“The philanthropists we advise challenged us to create an outcome-driven business approach that capitalizes on the enormous impact of Jewish camping,” said Joseph Hyman, president and founder of CEJP. “BunkConnect is a game-changing initiative that sets a standard for other philanthropists and organizations to follow.”

The initiative is modeled after the success of FJC’s One Happy Camper program, a need-blind grant initiative of up to $1,000 for first-time campers. A camper may participate in only one of the two programs.

In Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and the Florida panhandle, One Happy Camper is administered by the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana, sponsored by the Goldring Family Foundation.

The BunkConnect website is here.