Last fall, Chimney Corners camper Sonya Jampel was studying the Torah (Five books of Moses) in preparation for her Bat Mitzvah. As part of her training to become a responsible adult in the Jewish faith, Sonya interpreted a passage from the Torah in which the Israelites were included in a census for the first time. Inclusion became more than a teaching about her culture's values, but something Sonya wanted to apply to her own life.
"Mitzvah is a commandment of a good deed and I wanted my good deed to be including another girl to have a really fun summer like I had at Chimney Corners," explained Sonya, an eighth grader at the F. A. Day Middle School in Newton, MA.
At the end of summer 2009, Sonya learned that camperships were available for girls that otherwise would not be able to attend Chimney Corners.
"It really disappointed me that there were girls who were going to miss out on so much fun," said Sonya, who will return to camp this summer with her sister Serena, a first year camper, and brother Jacob, a second year Camp Becket camper.
So Sonya decided to help - by raising $3,700 for one full campership via the Annual Fund so one more girl could be included. She conducted her own mini campaign to friends and family with email blasts, mailings and phone calls. Donors to Sonya's special effort were bestowed a handwritten thank you note and a friendship bracelet.
Dr. Sandra Marwill, Sonya's mom and Chimney Corners alumna, recalled Sonya giving the D'var Torah (a discussion of that week's Torah portion) during her Bat Mitzvah, a ceremony she shared with a boy completing his Bar Mitzvah.
"A guest of the boy's was so moved by Sonya's plans to include another child at camp that she wrote out a check for $100, during the service and handed it to Sonya right after the service" and that donor turned out to be a Chimney Corners alumna.
Sonya surpassed her $3,700 goal by over $200.
"It feels pretty great to make a difference in the world," and for Sonya, that difference is an experience that is values-filled fun. "I have higher self-esteem at the end of the summer because of Chimney Corners. I worry less about being judged when I return to school," continued Sonya who admits she still wouldn't be caught wearing her pink tutu in West Newton when the frock was a staple at Chimney.
At Sonya's Bat Mitzvah in May, five of eight Chimney Corners friends from Emerald City cabin 2009 Meredith Clark, Shosh Kumin, Eliza Klein, Shoshi Stern-Robbins, and Haley Ring and three Chimney Corners friends from Atlantis cabin 2008 (Lexi Goulet, Lucy O'Sullivan, and Emily Krupa) designed and tailored a perfect paper hat that Sonya wore while they sang customized lyrics to a medley of songs by pop sensations Justin Beiber, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga. The lyrics celebrated the girls' love and friendship for their friend Sonya. It was just like lunch at the Chimney Corners dining hall with a bunch of girls laughing and singing silly songs just for the birthday girl.
Sonya's Bat Mitzvah was more than an opportunity to celebrate with her favorite friends. It was a realization that she had achieved her personal goal to include one more friend to the Chimney Corners community this year.