I remember my first year at GAC, I was so nervous to be spending time away from my parents. I was only seven years old! The moment I got off the bus at camp, everyone was so welcoming and we even got Goldie’s Cookies. Immediately I felt comfortable. Since that first day, I’ve never gotten homesick, and by the end of camp I don’t want to leave! GAC is my home away from home, and I don’t know what I would do with out it!
Melissa Wald is not only an enthusiastic seven-year veteran GAC camper, but also a generous young adult who wants to share the camp experience with others. For her Mitzvah Project, she raised $1,000 for the Manny Vezie Fund, a camp scholarship operated through the Max and Marion Caldwell Foundation. Melissa’s donation will help a camper who would not otherwise be able to afford a GAC camp experience to attend camp. We caught up with Melissa at the Los Angeles GAC Chat and asked her some questions about her generosity.
GAC: Can you explain what a Mitzvah Project is?
MW: A Mitzvah Project is something the Bar/Bat Mitzvah does for the greater good. When preparing for this special day, one attends Hebrew School for many years. I’ve been attending since Kindergarten, twice a week. We learn about the Hebrew language, how to speak and read it, and equally as important, we learn stories and lessons from the Torah and how they can be applied to living our best lives. One of the lessons is Tikkun Olam – “healing the world.” Tikkun Olam is the genesis of a Mitzvah Project.
MW: I decided to raise money for a campership because GAC is my favorite place on the planet! It is so special to me that I get to go every year for two sessions and experience all of the awesome activities and memories GAC creates. My best friends in life are my camp friends, and I’m so lucky! After camp, two years ago near the time of my Bat Mitzvah, I realized not every kid has the same opportunity and good fortune as I to be able to go to GAC. I want every kid to have the same chance to experience all the beautiful, inspiring, and amazing experiences that GAC has to offer. GAC has given so much to me over the past seven years, and I thought I should give back in a meaningful and life-changing way.
GAC: How did you raise the money?
MW: In raising money for the Vezie Fund, I decided not to ask my parents or immediate family, as I feel as though they are always so generous and giving to me. I also did not want to send emails nor directly ask my friends, because I go to a public magnet school where 50% of the students live at the poverty level, and they themselves can’t afford camp. I decided to take a portion of my monetary gifts and donate it from my own savings and have this gift truly be a donation of my very own.
GAC: How has your camp experience positively influenced your growth and development? What new skills have you learned?
MW: My camp experience has positively influenced my growth and development because GAC enforces the “have fun, make friends, and grow!” philosophy. GAC has taught me to let loose once in a while, support my friends and family and to learn from these experiences. GAC taught me to “be the change I want to see in the world” and to never give up. New skills that I have learned from camp socially are to treat others the way you would like to be treated, respect people in your life, as well as your environment, and that you can express yourself appropriately without hurting another person’s feelings or creating drama. New skills that I have learned that are recreational are knee boarding, water skiing, wake boarding, sailing, horseback riding, rock climbing, team building, and many more. All of these skills have helped to remind me to be the best person I can be and to live life to its fullest.
GAC: What’s your favorite part about GAC?
MW: My favorite part about GAC and why I return year after year are the friends that I make. My very best friends, the ones that will help me with anything… always be there for me… and that I can count on, I met at GAC. My favorite month of the whole year is when I go to camp. As I write this I am in tears because it’s my last year as a camper. However, the friends and memories one makes at GAC last a lifetime.
All of us at GAC want to thank Melissa for her generosity!