Burn camp dedicated in Israel with help from local friends
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Burn camp dedicated in Israel with help from local friends

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Campers enjoying activities during Israel Burn Camp for Children, including a drum circle with Israeli percussionist Gilad Dobrecky and Joshua Davis and a visit to Gan Garoo, a nature park. Photos by Emanuel Vasertiel

It was not only Joshua Davis’ bar mitzvah that brought his family to Israel at the end of March. His dad, Teaneck-based attorney Sam Davis, also wanted to be on hand for the grand opening of the Israel Burn Camp for Children.

Davis, founding director of Burn Advocates Network, has helped provide adaptive music and recreational programs as well as volunteers to 22 burn camps and centers throughout the United States. The new camp, at a kibbutz by the Sea of Galilee, is the first of its kind in the Middle East and also the first camp BAN has founded.

“It is clear that there is a tremendous need for this type of camp here, especially among the many minority groups in Israel’s population,” said Davis, who previously has raised funds to bring Israeli children to a burn camp in Pennsylvania.

The four-day program had 25 campers ranging in age from 7 to 17 from all segments of society. Together with a staff of more than 30 therapists, social workers, and volunteers from the burn units of Israeli hospitals, the children enjoyed activities including a drum circle led by renowned Israeli percussionist Gilad Dobrecky and assisted by Joshua.

The younger Davis, who celebrated his bar mitzvah at Masada, used his gifts to buy some 50 musical instruments and a Wii video system for Tel Aviv’s Schneider Children’s Medical Center and Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba.

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Sam Davis, the founding director of Burn Advocates Network, is pictured with a camper.

“Music has amazing healing powers, especially for those who never played an instrument because of their injuries. You can see it take place right here before your eyes,” observed Joshua. His sister Alana also volunteered at the camp.

BAN provided Strumsticks, specialized string instruments with adaptive picks for children missing fingers and limbs. “These instruments provide wonderful therapy for the children who are facing years of surgery and physical therapy,” Davis said.

Iuliana Eshel, head of occupational therapy at Schneider, directed the program. “Our camp is a wonderful experience for these children in a truly multi-cultural environment,” she said. “There are eight campers who speak only Arabic. With the help of our Arabic therapist and volunteer interpreters and helpers from the support group Simcha Layeled, everyone feels a part and fully participates in all of our activities.”

Over the four days, the kids went horseback riding and sailing, navigated a rope course, and visited a nature park.

“These activities are an excellent way to bring the young burn survivors out of the state of isolation and depression that frequently follows disfiguring burn injuries,” said Marcia Levinson, head of physical therapy at Philadelphia Jefferson Hospital and co-founder of the Israel Burn Camp.

Levinson also directs Camp Susquehanna, a four-day program in Pennsylvania. Nine years ago, she had visited Israel during the second intifada and discovered there were no burn camps there, even though many children were being treated in burn units. Within two years, she had cultivated contacts at Schneider and started accepting a couple of Israeli campers at Susquehanna. With the help of BAN, she’s been able to offer the program to a greater number of kids in the past five years, and also was able to actualize the dream of a camp in Israel.

Dr. David Mendes, chief of plastic surgery at Meir, visited the camp and came away impressed. “We know that healing the psychological trauma from burn scars is a process that continues for years after the surgeons and therapists have completed their treatment,” he said. “The importance of reintegrating and restoring the patient to a productive life cannot be underestimated.”

Davis, a member of Temple Beth El in Closter, said he had to turn away other prospective campers because of limited funding. “Next year, God willing, we will double our capacity so that any child who can benefit from the experience irrespective of religion or nationality will be able to attend our camp.”

For information, call (201) 220-3908 or e-mail sam@burnadvocates.org.

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