Carefree, Camp Experience
Former Detroiters are pursuing their dream of Jordan River Village,
open to seriously ill children in the Middle East.
Special to the Jewish News
111,1 arilyn Grant was killing
time during the inter-
mission of a benefit jazz.
concert in Connecticut,
when she casually picked up a brochure
about a camp for sick children and put
it in her purse. It stayed there for several
days until she and her husband, Murray,
were on a flight home to Israel.
"I opened my purse to look for a piece
of Kleenex and I pulled out the
brochure," said native Detroiter Marilyn
Grant of Netanya, speaking here during
a recent visit. "I read it and immediately
woke up Murray. I told him, 'We have
to bring this to Israel.'"
Four years and $4.3 million later, the
Grants are well on their way to opening
Jordan River Village. It is a 50-acre
camp in Israel's Lower Galilee region,
where children suffering from life-threat-
ening illnesses and disabling, chronic
conditions can spend a carefree week in
a medically safe environment at no cost
to their parents.
While the Grants are still one year
away from ground breaking, three years
away from opening and nearly $21 mil-
lion away from their fund-raising goal,
they feel they are closer than they've ever
been to establishing this trilingual camp
for children from Israel, Jordan,
Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.
Despite the challenge of raising an
additional $21 million for the camp, the
Grants don't seem overly concerned.
They're focused on their mission and
excited about the financial support com-
ing from a number of federations,
organizations and individuals, including
members of the Detroit Jewish commu-
nity. Government and other grant
money is expected to fulfill a large por-
tion of the budget requirements.
During a recent trip to Detroit, the
Grants received a number of individual
financial commitments ranging from
small contributions to a $50,000 dona-
Although the Grants left Michigan
more than 30 years ago, their roots here
remain strong. Their son and daughter
both attended the University of
Michigan and the son, Paul, lives in
West Bloomfield with their grandson.
The Grants also have enlisted the help of
friends to give legal and fund-raising
assistance with the camp.
Murray. Grant, a Connecticut native,
attended U-M as did his future wife, a
Detroit Central High School graduate.
Their paths crossed in 1947 at the cam-
pus Hillel. From Ann Arbor, Murray
took his new bride to Connecticut.
Two years later, the Grants visited
Israel for the first time. After spending
an evening with Israeli friends, they
knew the Jewish state was the place for
them. In 1971, they finally made it their
Paul Newman Connection
Marilyn still can't explain exactly what it
was about the camp brochure that
immediately struck her. None of their
family members was battling a serious
chronic illness and no one worked with
sick children. Her background was in
sociology; her husband's in marketing.
After the plane ride home to Israel,
the Grants quickly called the number on
the brochure. They spoke to a represen-
tative from Paul Newman's Hole in the
Wall Gang Camp for seriously ill chil
dren in Ashford, Conn. Initially,
Newman's organization did not show
much enthusiasm, but the
Grants were persistent and
they did their homework.
In 1999, actor-activist
Newman sent a letter
to the Grants that
efforts to create an
affiliated facility in
"We did a needs
assessment in Israel
and the statistics
There are 30,000
suffering with life-
eases," says Marilyn.
Newman opened the first Hole in the
Wall Gang Camp in Connecticut in
1988. Its success generated seven camps
modeled after it, soon to include Jordan
River Village in Israel. Newman's organi-
zation provides professional and techni-
cal assistance to member camps, which
are individually run.
Children at Jordan River Village will
sleep in cabins and eat in a dining hall
like at most summer camps. Planned for
the site are pools, arts and crafts center,
gym, theater, petting zoo, ROPES
course and a man-made lake for fishing
But different from other camps,
Jordan River Village will have a medical
center where children can receive
chemotherapy, dialysis and other treat-
ment. Other amenities include a heli-
copter pad for use in medical emergen-
cies, ramps and handicap-accessible
accommodations, and a
The Grants say the village will be
open 35 weeks per year with specific ses-
sions in the summer and during the
holidays open to seriously ill
children. Special sessions will
be geared toward institu-
dren as well as youngsters suffering from
chronic, genetic and traumatic ailments.
Parents and siblings also will have
opportunities to attend special sessions
to help them cope with the difficulties
serious illness often imposes on the fam-
Well into retirement, the Grants, both
in their 70s, are spending their golden
years making sure that seriously ill chil-
dren in the Middle East have a place
where they can just be kids.
"You can't move the world all at
once," said Murray. "If you can move it
a millimeter, you've been successful. This
is our millimeter." 111
For more information about
Jordan River Village, contact the
email@example.com or write
to them at Jordan River Village
Foundation, 7 Rivka Guber St.,
43728 Ra'anana, Israel.
Marilyn and Murray Grant
are planning a camp in
Israel for children
with serious illnesses.