You could feel the anticipation in the air as nearly 20 staff members departed the ranch at 6am and headed to Denver International Airport. Weeks of preparation had led us to this point. Everyone from our incredible kitchen staff to our camper care team to our counselors was prepared and excited. We were ready. It was go time.
Upon our arrival at the airport, the staff sprang into action unloading snacks, getting gate passes, going through security, and finding the gates. Flights began to touch down at 8am, and we were ready to receive each chalutz or chalutzah (camper) right off the plane as they came in. This was no small feat; flights were delayed, gates were changed, and baggage was misplaced. Moreover, this session alone, Ramah in the Rockies welcomed arriving chalutzim from nearly 40 separate flights. But our expert staff, armed with spreadsheets and group chats galore, handled it with ease. Every camper in a dark green “Ramah in the Rockies” tee was quickly spotted and welcomed.
Three buses, two 12-passenger vans, two trucks, and one Subaru pulled out of the airport that afternoon. Meanwhile, the bus from the Hebrew Educational Alliance (HEA) in Denver was well on its way, and local families packed up their cars and set off towards camp to drop off their campers in person. Bus rides from all over were full of laughs and songs, and soon chalutzim and tzevet (staff) alike were headed up the dirt road towards the ranch, approaching 8,000 foot elevation.
Each arriving vehicle was greeted with cheers, songs, and smiling madrichim (counselors), who swept up their chalutzim in a gust of energy and whisked them off to games, sports, and health checks. As the airport buses pulled up to the Ranch, those who had arrived from HEA or from home earlier in the day formed a tunnel with their arms for incoming campers to walk through, singing and cheering as each new camper joined our kehillah kedoshah (holy community). Squeals of excitement were heard as chalutzim reunited with friends they hadn’t seen all year.
Following a dinner filled with ruach (spirit) and pizza, chalutzim made their way to their ohelim (bunks) where they had a chance to unpack and relax after a long day of travel. Counselors led their bunks in writing the ohel brit, the bunk contract, to ensure that our summer is built upon a foundation of kindness and respect. Finally, every ohel sang the Shema before going to bed early, knowing that tomorrow would be the first day of the best summer of their lives.
And just like that, Kayitz 2017 at Ramah in the Rockies began.
By Rachel Blau