Shalom from Overland Park, Kansas! My name is Ben Walker and I am excited to have recently joined GUCI’s Board of Advisors. What’s the board of advisors? Great question, and one that I had myself when I heard from Katy Shapiro asking whether I would be interested in joining. Let’s get to that in a minute, after a bit of personal background.
I started at GUCI as a 3rd year Shoresh camper for Kallah Bet 1993. On my first day at camp, I met two people who would become lifelong friends: Joe Slade (former senior assistant director at GUCI, current executive director at Temple Sinai of Bergen County, New Jersey), and Brian Immerman (rabbi at Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden, Connecticut). We kept coming back through Gezah and Anaf, went on the NFTY in Israel trip in 1998, took part in Avodah 1999, and then came back as staff. I spent three years at camp as a counselor and specialist, and then was a unit head for Avodah 2003 and 2004. And I met a very special lady on the Kallah Bet 2002 Anaf staff (thank you to Daniel Schwartz and Elyse Hershenson Freed for playing secret matchmakers) and proposed to her in front of the Beit Am in August, 2009.
So, camp is a pretty important place for me, as it is for so many. Since I ended my time as a staff member, I’ve tried to find ways to stay involved and pull in as much of that great GUCI energy as I could. So, when Katy reached out and explained that camp had a board of advisors that was designed to help GUCI continue to grow as an immersive Jewish living experience for staff and campers from all over the midwest, I was excited to sign up.
The board of advisors is made up of former campers, staff, parents, Jewish professionals, and others who are committed to the success of GUCI. The board is responsible for supporting the long-term future of GUCI by providing input and feedback on camp’s strategic direction; helping drive campaigns to continue improving camp’s facilities; and helping ensure that camp has the scholarship funds that are needed to make sure that all kids have an opportunity to attend GUCI. We meet periodically during the year as well as once each summer at GUCI, and stay in close touch with GUCI’s year-round professional staff to provide assistance as needed.
The board of advisors also convenes a number of committees that include board members and others from the greater camp community. These committees work on issues like alumni engagement and making our fabulous 60th reunion happen.
During Kallah Aleph this year, I had an opportunity to join my fellow board members at camp for a series of thoughtful discussions and activities to set the course for the board moving forward. During the weekend we spent time with campers and staff and heard a lot about the strengths of GUCI – like the staff, programming, communication with families during the summer, and commitment to seeking and acting on feedback. We also heard about areas where continued attention will be important, like ensuring that camp has adequate facilities (which you will hear more about soon!) And, since we’re talking about camp here, you won’t be surprised to hear that we spent time bonding as a group, although (sadly) there were no blindfolded trust walks, toothbrush bracelets, or paint twister.
So what’s next? The plan is for the board of advisors to be a strong contributor to the ongoing success of GUCI, by helping define the mission and vision of camp and making sure that the right resources are in place to deliver on that mission and vision.
It was a privilege to be a camper, Avodahnik, and staff member at GUCI, and it is a privilege to be able to have a new opportunity to contribute to GUCI as a member of the board of advisors. Camp has always been a very special place for me, and I look forward to helping make sure it can be just as special for my children, and for kids from all over the Midwest, for years to come.
See you soon in Zionsville!