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July 27, 2006 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2006-07-27

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Tamarack Tracjedy

takes life
of longtime
camper and

northern Ontario,
where six Camp
Kennedy staff mem-
bers and 17 campers
— including Grey's
first cousin — were
spending the night.
According to
Tamarack Executive
Director Jonah Geller,
Grey died instantly
from the impact of
the fallen tree, which
also injured Aaron
Lebovic, a 19-year-
old counselor from
West Bloomfield,
who remains hospi-
talized with back and
leg injuries.
After a July 24 visit
to Aaron at a Toronto
hospital, Geller said,
"Aaron is doing well.
•He has had two suc-
cessful surgeries and
has been released
from intensive care.
They are making
plans to have him
home within a week
to get additional
care and further his
"His mother is
very pleased with
his progress. We
wish him a full and
speedy recovery, and
our hearts go out to
the Grey and Lebovic

Shelli Liebman Dorfman

Staff Writer


ollowing the July 17
death of Tamarack
Camps' Camp Kennedy
Director Jeff Grey, staff has
grappled to review details of
the tragedy and help campers
and counselors who witnessed
the accident cope and grieve
Grey, 26, of Oak Park was
killed when a tree fell on his tent
during a severe thunderstorm
in Algonquin Provincial Park in

Camp Kennedy, based in
Shingleton in Michigan's Upper
Peninsula, is an outpost camp
for 15-year-old campers seeking
wilderness camping experiences.
The accident occurred during an
offsite camping trip.
The Kennedy group had been
divided into three sections, each
with five or six campers and two
staff members. Only the group
overseen by Grey and Lebovic
were at the site when the tree
fell and in the hours following
the accident. With electricity

and phone lines at the park out
because of the storm, Geller said,
Two campers canoed for help
from park rangers. They also met
up with a man and his son who
were camping, who came to the
site and stayed with the group
and Aaron!"
During the several hours
before park rangers were able
to bring help, Geller said, "The
campers and staff were absolute-
ly wonderful. Campers filled and
heated their water bottles to line
Aaron's body to keep him warm.
The emergency procedures Jeff
went over with the campers and
staff before the trip likely helped.
And while they were waiting for
emergency assistance to arrive,
Aaron coached the campers on
how to care for him."
Meanwhile, Geller said, "Jeff's
cousin, a camper in the group,
said Kaddish for him."
All three groups were taken to
a ranger station where those in
the other groups were informed
of the situation. "Once we knew
that every single camper and
staff member was safe, I person-
ally called all of their parents:'
said Geller, who was at the camp's
Ortonville office at the time of
the accident. He also called the
Grey family, whom he has known
through their longtime involve-
ment with Tamarack Camps.

Trauma Support
Algonquin Park authorities pro-
vided immediate access to grief
counselors and a trauma support
team for the group.
Campers and staff returned
home following the accident, two
weeks before the end of camp.
"We decided not to even have
them go back from the camp-
site to Kennedy to collect their
things," Geller said. "Our decision
was that they should be with
their parents.
"The buses that brought the
group back to West Bloomfield
were it by our mental health
professionals!' Last Friday after-

noon, the group and their par-
ents met with camp social work-
ers and a Jewish Family Service
grief counselor and bereavement
specialist, Michael Walch, for a
formal debriefing and counsel-
A plan was set for campers to
return to Kennedy this week for
a three day trip, partially to pack
up their belongings and pick up
their mail. "There was a surge
to go back up for closure for the
close-knit group," Geller said.
"While they are there, they will
build a memorial to Jeff." Grief
counselors will also be on hand.
"And we will continue to offer
their services at any minute of
the day" he said.
In his fifth year with
Tamarack, Geller said to his
knowledge there has been
one other death ever among
Tamarack staff — a drowning in
the 1960s. He is unaware of the
death of any camper.
A longtime Tamarack camper
who joined the staff five years
ago, Grey, a guitarist and song-
writer, spent the past two years
as director of Camp Kennedy.
In a bio he wrote for the
Tamarack Web site, Grey
described his love of the camp
where family has had longtime
involvement. "I realized that my
own personal strengths in lead-
ership, confidence and Jewish
identity had come largely from
my summer experiences:' he
wrote. "In the spirit of many
great leaders before me, includ-
ing my own family members,
I put my heart back into the
Tamarack world as a trip leader,
counselor, supervisor and direc-
tor. Teaching the next generation
of leaders has given me immense
satisfaction. Spending my sum-
mers at Camp Kennedy has
helped me find great meaning
in my own career and has con-
nected me with an amazing com-

See obituary on page 78.

July 27 • 2006


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