SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ — Staff at Camp Yachad, the day camp at the JCC of Central New Jersey, worked with Westfield-based Imagine, a Center for Coping with Loss, to tell its campers Tuesday of the sudden passing of staff member Lori DiStefano, who worked with first-graders there. According to her obituary on, DiStefano was 33 years old when she died this weekend at her parents' home. She lived in Garwood.

The following letter was emailed to parents:

Dear Parent or Guardian,

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We are writing to you with great sadness that one of our staff members in our Megalim (1st grade) unit, Lori DiStefano, died suddenly on Saturday evening. Our deepest sympathies go out to Lori’s family and friends and to all in our camp community that got to know and care about Lori this summer. 

The JCC has been working very closely with Imagine, a nonprofit grief counseling agency in Westfield, who has been advising us about how to communicate this tragic news with our campers and staff and to create a safe and supportive environment to help them grieve.

The staff and parents of campers in Lori’s group were all contacted by phone, and with the permission of all of our parents, we spoke to the girls in Lori’s group today.  Imagine had a counselor there as our Unit Director, counselors and Associate Director shared the sad news about Lori’s death. They were all moved by the questions, thoughts and memories shared by the girls.

While your child may not have known Lori directly, we wanted to be sure you were aware of what happened in case your child hears about this from another camper or overhears a conversation amongst staff, many of whom may also be grieving.

We understand that not all youth will be impacted by this tragedy in the same way and we plan to maintain our usual routine, while at the same time providing flexibility in the schedule for those that are grieving.  We will provide grief counseling services for the campers who need assistance for as long as is needed. Most youth will cope effectively with this tragic event, but some may have a more difficult time. Youth who may have sustained a recent loss of any kind of their own, or who may be going through a particularly stressful time may also need some additional assistance.  Camp Yachad  is - and will continue to be - a place that fosters positive human development for our campers.

The link below includes some information that may be helpful to you in discussing this with your child, as well a description of some of the signs to look for that may indicate that your child is having a difficult time coping. Our staff will also be observant over the next days and weeks for any sign that campers are struggling, and we will contact you immediately if we feel your child is showing any signs of grief.

As always, please do not hesitate to call us with any questions or concerns.


Jodi, Mike, Mallory