We knew that walking into the summer of 2021, our campers and our staff would come to camp with new challenges after living through a global pandemic – from social isolation to fear, grief and more. Before camp began, we had an opportunity to appeal to the Milwaukee Jewish Federation (MJF) to support a project directed towards MESH (Mental Emotional Social Health) needs at Camp Interlaken. We took inventory of how we currently supported our campers who needed to break away from the normal camp program to decompress or to reset. They had always just hung out in Michelle Lafferty’s – our camp social worker’s – office or even my office. I imagined a separate sensory space to support our campers and staff who might need that safe space to take a break.
With the help of a generous donor who embraced our proposal we wrote for the MJF appeal, the Zen Den came to life during staff week 2021! We purchased a small building locally, and we filled the inside with every imaginable type of fidget, strung Edison lights for dim lighting, added soft flooring, big comfy chairs, an essential oil diffuser, and even a speaker to play quiet music. Honestly, the staff enjoyed the Zen Den as much as the campers did, and, admittedly, I spent a few moments in the Zen Den as well!
We hoped our Zen Den would make a difference. It did. A huge one. Our campers had a place they could go to just reset and decompress before returning to camp life. Campers had to sign in to use the Zen Den, and at the end of the summer, we had collected pages and pages of sign in sheets to reflect the use of the space.
We know everyone in our kehillah (community) has different needs; being able to accommodate each of them is one of the things that makes Camp Interlaken so special. We are looking forward to the Zen Den providing needed respite for campers and staff for years to come.
With so much pride in our home on Lake Finley,