In honor of throwback Thursday and looking back on fond memories of Jawonio, please take a look at Warren Silberstein’s Story, who has a personal connection to our Foundation as a former Camp counselor!
“I first came to work at Camp Jawonio in the summer of 1964, when I was 16 years old. Although I’d had years of experience babysitting, I had zero experience with handicapped children. In fact, I had no experience with camp either. The counselors who were there from previous years made sure that I learned quickly by pushing me in, to either sink or swim.
I made lots of friends with the kids at the camp, my closest friend being Scotty Smith, who was 12 years old when we first met. I used to visit him at his house and we’d go out to the movies, and he used to come to my house for sleepovers. We’d walk down the big hill to Sid’s Pharmacy & General Store in Orangeburg, and then I’d have to help him manage getting back up the hill with his heavy braces on. His friend, Tommy Horton, also became my friend.
I also became friends with a bunch of the adult staff at the camp. I learned Morse Code and had conversations with Larry Olsen and Butch Anwar. I used to visit both of them outside of camp and even sat with Butch sometimes when his parents went out.
I was only able to work at Jawonio for two summers since I had to earn more money for college. After Jawonio, I went on to teach music at Letchworth Village. My experience at Jawonio made me decide to become a doctor. I went to medical school and have been a practicing Pediatrician since 1977.
There are a few amusing stories that stick in my mind from my time at Camp Jawonio: When it was stormy out and the campers couldn’t be out on the grounds, they used to show movies in the dining hall. When there was lightning, you could sometimes see the sparks shooting around the pipes in the ceiling, which scared the kids.
It was a tradition to have a party with the adults in their tent on the last night of camp. It was pouring and thundering out one of those times, and when Pinkie (Margaret Davis, the Camp Director) came to the tent to check on things, she noticed a jar of pickles and said, “oooh, look what the thunder brought. Pickles!” After she left, we had a big laugh and had our party.
One night I drove a group of adults to the 303 Drive-In Movie. On the way out, a drunk driver plowed into my car. When the ambulance arrived, even though nobody was hurt, they were overwhelmed and confused by all of the people with disabilities.
I also have a fond memory of bringing one of the boys to a baseball game for his birthday.
As the years passed and I went off to college, then medical school, got married and had my own family, I lost track of my Jawonio family. I often wondered what happened to Scott and the other kids. A few years ago, Sandy Pakula Sewell tracked me down and Scott and I reconnected. And I am happy we did!”
Thank you, Dr. Silberstein for sharing your story and memories from Camp Jawonio!
If you have a story from your time as a counselor or camper at Camp Jawonio or our Summer Education program, please join our Facebook Group HERE and share your photos and stories too.