'Big Night' Times Square for Jewish Campers with Cancer

Sometimes dreams come true, even for a Jewish child with cancer. On Thursday night, hundreds will get their wish.

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Hana Julian,

Camp Simcha kids 'Occupy Cancer'
Camp Simcha kids 'Occupy Cancer'
Screenshot / archive

What does a Jewish child dream of when he or she has cancer? 

For some, it's the privilege of performing live on stage in the most famous place in the world: New York City's Time Square.  And this week, hundreds of Jewish children with cancer will get their wish.

Jewish campers struggling with the challenge of cancer will have their “big night” Thursday when they sing at a "Hall of Fame" musical performance right there in New York City’s Times Square. The excited campers will be joined on stage by a cast of hundreds, including the Camp Simcha staff, United States Army personnel and New York City police officers.

Established 25 years ago, Camp Simcha is a two-week Jewish summer camp that each summer welcomes 200 children ages 5-20 with cancer and other hematologic illnesses to have fun like other children their age.

Camp Simcha Special, a program for children ages 8 to 17 with debilitating chronic physical conditions, welcomes 230 campers each summer, where children fighting a wide range of multiple diagnoses spend two weeks just having fun and making new friends.

Both are overnight camps sponsored by the Chai Lifeline organization and all food is strictly kosher, with Shabbat and other Jewish customs observed.

The programs are located on the 125-acre Jack and Moishe Horn Campus in Glen Spey, NY. Every facility in the camp is handicapped-accessible, and all buildings are climate controlled. 

Camp Simcha’s medical program supervised by Peter Steinherz, MD, attending physician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The medical director at Camp Simcha Special is Robert Van Amerongen, MD, director of the Pediatric Emergency Service, Department of Emergency Medicine at New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn. 

A medical staff and pharmacist are on site 24/7 with the ability to administer chemotherapy. An on-site ambulance and access to a Medevac helicopter exists as well. All counselors are volunteers who are specially trained to work with the children – and competition for the privilege to become a Camp Simcha counselor is fierce.

The biggest relief for stressed-out parents, however, is the issue of paying for a sick child’s summer fun: Tuition for all campers is completely free, including transportation from the child’s home city.