Growing up in Miami Josh Rader and his twin brother spent every summer at the Dave and Mary Alper Jewish Community Center as campers, returning to the J as camp staff during their college years. Josh even met his future wife Michelle Applerouth-Rader at the JCC.
Their life-long friend Matthew Bittel’s childhood also revolved around summers at the Center. As adults with families of their own, the friends wanted to re-engage and become part of the community center they knew so well as kids.
With so many positive memories between them, Rader and Bittel decided to organize the first Alper JCC summer camp reunion J on Sunday, Oct. 21, from noon to 4 p.m. Within days they had recruited a committee of more than two dozen former campers and staff who shared their passion. Kids of all ages have the opportunity to reconnect and reminisce at the JCC’s Forever a Camper event
“It is always nice to get together, reconnect with old friends to reminisce about childhood, summer camp memories and the Alper JCC,” said Bittel. “The concept of a summer camp reunion has been talked about for years. We decided to put the plan into action and from there the event took on a mind of its own. This event is going to be a real success.”
For more than 60 years, the Alper JCC Camp has created meaningful summer experiences for thousands of boys and girls. In 1932, the organization was originally called the Hebrew Athletic Club, but changed its name to the YM/YWHA in the 1960s and opened the first summer program for kids at the Yon Southwest Eighth Street.
“In 1965, in an effort to raise funds for summer day camp scholarships, the fundraising committee planned a special event; and it was truly special,” JCC historian Roslyn Berrin recalls. “The committee planned a Las Vegas Night and during the evening the county police swooped down on the ballroom, confiscated the gaming equipment and hauled off two of the organization’s top officers and the assistant director to jail.”
Reunion activities are being planned by a committee that includes current camp director Ashley Conant and the team of Marsha Botkin, Paul Frishman and Susan Linder who all worked together at the Center for years. Plans include Flag Pole, Color War, Singin’ with Susan, a bounce house and a campfire with Mike Moss. Commemorative tee shirts are being printed, video collages assembled and a special closing ceremony is planned.
“Based on the feedback we have received to date and with the interest which has spiked from the event’s Facebook Page, we are expecting a large turnout for the event,” said Rader. “We are encouraging former campers, counselors and friends of the Alper JCC to register online now. With all event proceeds benefiting the camps scholarship fund, we are urging people to give generously to help provide a JCC summer camp experience and the memories that go with it, to someone else.” Since that first raucous summer camp fundraiser to this camp reunion, the center continues to creatively raise funds so that they can provide camp scholarships for children whose families are burdened with financial difficulties. Reunion general admission tickets include lunch and camp fun. Prices are $36 for a family of four and $5 for each additional family member. Individual tickets are $18 per person. Patron tickets are $100, $180 and $360 and admit up to six people.
For more information and registration call Conant at 305-271-9000, ext. 268, or log on to www.alperjcc.org