In Jewish tradition, a young person begins the journey to adulthood at age 12 or 13, which is seen as an opportunity to teach kids about the responsibilities of being a Jewish adult and giving back to the world. This includes doing a mitzvah (“good deed” or “commandment”, in Hebrew) project, which can be some sort of social action and/or raising money for a charity of choice.
Says Rabbi Jill Jacobs, author of Where Justice Dwells: A Hands-on Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Community, “One key thing is that the mitzvah project should be something the student really has thought about, that it comes from somewhere inside of them, and that they can learn something about how to interact with communities that are in need.” (Tablet Magazine)
That’s why we were so happy and grateful to hear from a few girls who selected Experience Camps as their bat mitzvah project; we knew our organization had captured their hearts. Combined, the girls (from two different families) raised over $16,000 so far! We wanted to find out how they went about this and what tips they might offer to other kids who want to raise money for their bar/bat mitzvah.
First, meet Amber of New Jersey, whose bat mitzvah is this June, and who has a very personal tie to Experience Camps. She attended two years ago after her dad died, and it meant everything to her, according to her mom Elissa: “Amber realized she was not alone in feeling the sadness of losing her dad at such a young age. Everyone at Experience Camps can relate to her story. When talking about her mitzvah project, she didn’t hesitate to suggest Experience Camps. In fact, she wants every child who has lost someone special in their life to attend Experience Camps!”
Amber raised $11,800 and is still going. She sent an email to family and friends telling them about her mitzvah project, the connection she had to us, and that she hoped everyone would contribute. Together with her mom, they created a Go Fund Me page and spread the word on Facebook and Instagram. Elissa said, “The social-media posts got reshared by many friends so it had a lot of exposure which led to more donations. I think that after everyone read Amber’s story, they couldn’t help but contribute something!”
Fundraising tips from both Amber and her mom: “Be sure to create a large list of friends and family to send an email to but don’t underestimate the power of social media. “It is amazing how many people you can reach,” Elissa says, “and then they share your post which reaches a whole new group of people, creating more buzz and awareness.” As for Amber’s biggest tip: “Be sure to put your heart into your story on your campaign page and share many pictures of you and your loved one!”
Meet Sydney and Zoe
Sydney and Zoe Ellis, whose b’not mitzvah, is May 29, 2021, chose to make Experience Camps their charity of choice because the cause deeply resonated with them. “While we have never experienced the loss of a close loved one, we have read stories of kids less fortunate,” said Sydney. “We thought it would be so helpful to kids experiencing loss to go to camp and be with others that have a similar story.” The girls knew about Experience Camps because they have been going to Camp Matoaka since they were seven. (Matoaka’s neighboring camp, Camp Manitou, is an Experience Camp site).
For their fundraiser, they set up a hip-hop class at the Florida fitness studio owned by their mom. This was perfect for them because all their friends love to dance. The girls made a flyer, sent it to all their friends, and posted it on social media. “Because of Covid we didn’t have as big a turnout as we wanted,” says Zoe, “but we still had a blast!”
They raised over $700 on the day of the event and worked with Florescue Family Foundation (which invests in charities that benefit children) in Pompano Beach Florida to secure an additional $5,000 this year to the organization.
Their advice for other kids on raising money for a charity: Spend time really learning about the organization before your event if you have one. In their case, they set up a Zoom meeting with a board member and long time volunteer from Experience Camps, who is also a family friend and Manitou alum, to ask about his experiences with the camp. “The stories he told us and the photos and videos he shared made the campers seem more real to us,” said Sydney. “This allowed us to share more information with our friends and family about why we really cared about this project.” Both girls agree that knowing those stories made raising the money truly meaningful. In fact, Sydney and Zoe told us that they now want to volunteer for Experience Camps when they’re older!
As an organization that supports the resilience, health and well-being of grieving children, it means the world to us when they want to support the fundraising efforts that power our transformational programs and enable us to help more grieving children.. If your child or one you know of is interested in also making Experience Camps their charity of choice, and you have questions about the process, find out more here.