Chai Lifeline Chanukah Toy Drive Delivers 50,000+ Toys; Yields Untold Millions Of Smiles

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toy boxes ready for delivery

Schools, stores, and thousands of volunteers across the country spent the weeks before Chanukah 2014 engaged in what may be the ultimate feel-good mitzvah: collecting, selecting, packaging and delivering toys that made Chanukah sweeter for sick children and their siblings.

Anchored by New York’s Honey Engel Toy Drive, perhaps the largest endeavors of its kind in the Jewish World, Chai Lifeline offices in the US and affiliates in Canada, Europe and Israel amassed more than 50,000 toys for children from tots to teens, then delivered them during holiday parties that brought families, staff, and volunteers together and during hospital parties coordinated with medical centers that treat sick children.

In New York, the annual Chanukah Gala drew 1,000 people to the Palace Hall in Boro Park. Holiday crafts enchanted the youngsters while adults greeted one another and the Chai Lifeline staff and volunteers who came to celebrate with them. After a spirited performance by the Yeshiva Boys Choir, children lined up to collect the massive boxes of toys prepared for each family. Squeals of delight accompanied each hasty box opening as parents wondered how the huge packages were going to fit into cars already crowded with car seats and children.

The scene was repeated in Lakewood, NJ; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Los Angeles, CA: Lincolnwood, IL; and Pittsburgh, PA, as well as in Montreal, Toronto, Antwerp, London, Manchester, and Jerusalem.

“Chanukah can be a wonderful, joyous season for families – or it can be saddened by the presence of illness or loss,” remarked Rabbi Simcha Scholar, Chai Lifeline’s executive vice president. “Our mission is to turn it from blue and gloomy to fun for children fighting illness or coping with loss and their families. We’re careful to include the entire family, including siblings and even grandparents, in our celebrations to give children the warmest, most magnificent memories possible.”

From the volume of emails and thank you notes received by Chai Lifeline staff, it’s clear that the organization makes a huge difference in the holidays. One grateful family emailed Rabbi Scholar that

“This month was particularly difficult for our family. Moishy had an infection that landed him in the hospital for a few days. And then in the middle of Chanukah he had a seizure, a first for him, which brought us to the hospital again. The seizure was particularly difficult on the other children…so once again, thank you for the gifts, which were so exciting and uplifting.”

Readying boxes of toys at the NY Chanukah Gala

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