Member Communications 3 min read

Camp Interlaken JCC Alumni “Take Over” and Make Their Mark On Camp

By JCC Milwaukee June 30, 2021

When the Steve & Shari Sadek Family Camp Interlaken JCC had to suspend its 2020 summer season, there was a lot more than unhappy campers and counselors at stake. No summer season had a severe impact on the camp’s bottom line—forced to refund camper fees while still incurring fixed expenses that had been ongoing since the end of the prior summer.

At the first Camp Interlaken Camp Committee meeting of fall 2020, Camp Director Toni Davison Levenberg shared the harsh financial realities with her committee of dedicated lay leaders. Most of the Camp Committee is comprised of Interlaken alumni, who share a deep love for their “home away from home” on Lake Finley in Eagle River. Their concern for their beloved camp was declared loudly—along with cries of “we need to help!” At that moment, Camp Committee member Jesse Sondel typed an acronym into the Zoom chat: “ATO.” Alumni Take Over.

Jesse’s idea came from a longtime Camp Interlaken tradition called “KTO,” which stands for “K’Far Takes Over.” K’Far is the oldest camper unit at camp—and for one day each summer, the K’Far campers step in to “take over” the operations of camp. While they are still supervised intently, K’Far campers learn leadership skills as they help run programs and give some of the counselors a brief respite from a long summer.

So how did Jesse and the rest of the committee alumni intend to make “ATO” an opportunity to “take over?” By starting their own grassroots fundraising campaign for Camp Interlaken—to offset some of the losses incurred in summer 2020 and help lay the financial groundwork for a healthier summer 2021.

Using social media as their primary tool, the ATO crew posted dozens of old camp photos, asking their alumni friends to help identify (and tag) themselves and their camp friends. As the online engagement began to increase, a call to action for helping support camp was included in each post—and the contributions began streaming in. Alumni who had never donated to Camp Interlaken before—or who had not supported camp in many years—stepped up for Camp Interlaken.

By the campaign’s end in mid-February, the ATO campaign raised more than $50,000 to help Camp Interlaken JCC. During a year when philanthropy was more important than ever, some very special alumni “took over” in the best possible way.

Read more Stories from the JCC 2020-21 Annual Report

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