Giving Back

Local Leaders Honored at Camp Yachad’s Inaugural ‘Heroes Day’

Scotch Plains Police Officer Sean Silva receives a letter from a young camper. Credits: JCC of Central NJ
A young camper greets Scotch Plains Deputy Mayor Llewellyn Jones with a high five. Credits: JCC of Central NJ
Scotch Plains Mayor Al Smith reads a note written by a young camper at Camp Yachad. Credits: JCC of Central NJ

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – In an effort to raise awareness for local heroes, Camp Yachad of the JCC of Central NJ hosted some top local leaders at its camp on Wednesday morning to the surprise of children between the ages of 3-years-old to fifth graders. In attendance were law enforcement officials, firefighters and local government leaders.

The idea of introducing young campers to local community leaders was the brainchild of Camp Yachad’s Director of Fun Justin Kaufman, who with co-directors Mallory Zipkin and Jodi Hotra in the fall of 2016. The week of Independence Day was strategically selected as a date because they thought it would be a good idea to expose campers and put a face to some of the community leaders.

For the children, being up close and personal with the local heroes offered a valuable perspective. Standing next to a huge firetruck also put smiles on their faces.

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“You could just see the excitement on their faces,” said Zipkin. “We had each unit of different ages of campers ask questions and say what a hero meant to them. It was so fun to see the responses that kids came up with – there were some really deep thoughts from some really young children.”

Campers distributed handwritten thank you cards and signs to the community leaders in a showing of gratitude. Among those in attendance were Scotch Plains Mayor Al Smith, Deputy Mayor Llewellyn Jones, Lieutenant Beverly Peal, Officer Sean Silva and members of the Scotch Plains Fire Department.

“It was an incredible opportunity to be a participant in Camp Yachad’s ‘Heroes Day,’” Smith said. “The camp is an amazing program, and all at the JCC should be proud.”

The JCC of Central New Jersey hopes to build off this successful event through its Grateful for Our Local Heroes initiative, in which they are hosting a series of events from July 23-26 to honor local community leaders. The public is invited to participate by baking and delivering treats. For more information, contact Randi Zucker at 908-889-8800 x253 via email at

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