Elizabeth (Liz) Robbin and Julie Feldman haven't skipped a beat since being named 36 Under 36 list in 2015 and 2016, respectively. In September, Robbin received the Jewish Federation's Samuel A. Goldsmith Young Professional Award for outstanding performance in her work for a Jewish agency.
In addition to their full-time jobs, these seemingly tireless women are the director (Robbin) and assistant director (Feldman) of Camp Firefly, a therapeutic overnight camp for kids with Autism and other social disorders presented by Jewish Child and Family Services, JCC Camp Chi Overnight Camp, and The JCCs of Chicago.
A major challenge for children with Autism and similar social disorders is connecting with their peers and learning the social skills to make friends. As a result, many children with such diagnoses are not successful in traditional summer camp settings.
Camp Firefly was developed to address this very need by providing a fun, social and supportive overnight camp experience for youth ages 7-18. "For many of our campers, Camp Firefly is the first time they feel safe letting down their guard, trying new things, and making friends," Robbin said.
The kids share a common experience because they have similar abilities and similar needs, which Robbin says is a critical component of making friends, especially for kids with heightened social needs.
As lifelong Chi campers, Robbin and Feldman are grateful to be able to share their love of camp with kids for whom such an experience would otherwise be out of reach.
"At camp, you do more than make friends," Feldman said. "At camp, you learn how to navigate social situations, problem-solve, and build self-confidence."
In the words of a Camp Firefly parent after her son returned home from camp, "I know that [my son] has grown as a person and that Camp Firefly gave him a place to belong."
On Nov. 4, Camp Firefly will host its annual Give for the Glow event and fundraiser, the proceeds of which will provide scholarships to campers whose families would otherwise be unable to afford to send their children to camp. On average, 20 percent of Camp Firefly families rely on these scholarships annually.
"We don't want kinds to be unable to come to camp because of the price," Robbin said. "[Camp] is something that we believe every kid should be able to do regardless of their family's financial situation."
This year, Give for the Glow will take place at a new venue: The Chicago Athletic Association. In addition to drinks and hors d'oeuvres, the event will include short presentations by Camp Firefly campers and parents, a raffle, caricatures, a silent auction and live music performed by the Naturals.
Art for the silent auction was donated by a local artist with Autism, and the Naturals band features two incredibly talented musicians on the Autism spectrum and formed after the members got to know one another through music therapy. "It's going to be a fun night with a lot of energy," Robbin said.
For tickets and additional information about Give for the Glow, please visit http://www.jcfs.org/events/give-glow-0
To learn more about Camp Firefly, visit http://www.jcfs.org/our-services/children-adolescents/recreation-social-opportunities/camp-firefly
JCFS is a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community.