We refer to it Arrivals Day. It is the first day of Camp Simcha, and over 120 children* with life-long and life-threatening illnesses are on their way to our camp. One hundred and twenty children, from all over the world are making their way to the happiest place on earth. Their happiest place on earth. It is Arrivals Day, and the buses begin to arrive. Itís Arrivals Day.
The music is blaring. The DJ stands upon an elevated stage, decorated with a tremendous ďWelcome to Camp Simcha!Ē sign. There is a giant inflatable purple tunnel situated at the main gate, exploding with fog and LED flashing lights. Each camper comes off the bus, has his name announced on the microphone, and he runs through the tunnel into a dancing mosh pit of volunteers in a plethora of costumes. Welcome to Camp Simcha. Itís Arrivals Day.
The Newark bus arrives. The Brooklyn bus pulls up. One by one, the campers come off the bus, beaming with joy and palpable excitement. We dance each of them into the one place they feel welcome. The one place they feel that they can be themselves. Welcome Newark. Welcome Brooklyn. Itís Arrivals Day.
The loudspeaker announces the imminent arrival of another bus. A new bus. A new bus from a new region. The freshly inaugurated Mid-Atlantic Region of Chai Lifeline. Our kids, from our hospitals, step off the bus. An immense sense of pride and gratitude stirs beneath me. Pride in our community for building this region, and gratitude that our kids are each able to attend another summer at Camp Simcha. The DJ begins to pay his song, and the staff begin to dance. Our children, from our region, have made it back to Camp Simcha. They have waited a long year for this day, and it has finally arrived. Our new office was years in the making, and it has finally arrived. Itís Arrivals Day.
*Arrivals Day happens four times a summer, at the beginning of each of our camp sessions. More than 430 children and teens ran through the purple tunnel in 2016.