[PHOTOS IN EXTENDED ARTICLE]
The story of Chanukah is a tale of how a small number of people can change the lives of a geometrically expanding group. And in many ways, that is also the story of Chai Lifeline’s Chanukah programs: within a few weeks, they have impacted the lives of 10,000 children and their families around the world, bringing light to lives that have been darkened by the presence of illness, loss, or trauma.
Two thousand children and families attended Chai Lifeline’s New York Chanukah Gala. They entered a hall seemingly lit by starlight to enjoy a gourmet dinner, kid games and Chanukah crafts, an amazing display of magic by Eric Wilzig and a concert by Yoni Z. Before they left, parents picked up a huge box filled with presents selected especially for the children in the family by volunteers of the Honey Engel Toy Drive. The region held Chanukah parties in seven hospitals across the New York area.
More than a thousand kids and families had a wonderful time at the annual Lakewood Chanukah Chagiga. Music, games, sufganiot (of course!) and gifts made the occasion special. The New Jersey region also partnered with the Jewish Federation of South Jersey to bring Chanukah to sick children in the Cherry Hill area, and sponsored parties at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Procure Proton Therapy Center, and Children’s Specialized Hospital.
Three hundred kids, parents, friends and volunteers from the Baltimore-Washington DC axis gathered in Silver Spring for the annual Mid Atlantic party. Food, fun, and friends were the order of the day.
No child in South Florida was left out of Chanukah this year. A black light party featured glow in the dark face painting, music from a high school marching band and light-up life-size mini-golf, bowling, and more. Southeast kids were the guests of the Miami Heat one evening, and lit the arena’s menorah before the start of the game. Additionally Chanukah Angels fulfilled the special wishes of over 100 children.
In addition to a Gala in Los Angeles, Chai Lifeline West Coast reached all the way to Arizona to bring Chai Lifeline Chanukah fun to 100 people in Phoenix. Families, friends, and supporters an exciting evening at CrackerJax Family Fun and Sports Park, complete with delicious food, Chanukah crafts, balloon art, miniature golf, and go karts. In addition to multiple toy drives, Los Angeles schools “adopted” our children, making Chanukah kits for hospitalized children, cookies, cards, and more.
The Midwest Region’s Chanukah event looked eastward, at least for the cuisine. The event, held at Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov, featured a Chinese buffet, complete with chopsticks, fortune cookies, and sufganiot — the non-Chinese variety! The guests were enthralled by the Jessie White Tumblers, whose talents have long delighted Chicago audiences. The region also coordinated a Chanukah party for families in the Detroit area and sponsored Chanukah menorahs in both Lurie Children’s Hospital and Advocate Lutheran General Medical center.
Chai Lifeline’s affiliates outside the US also celebrated Chanukah in style. Chaiyanu/Chai Lifeline Israel families were treated to an evening endless food, from pizza, made to order crepes, ice cream, doughnuts, candy, and soda, plus a delightful movie presentation made for an unforgettable evening.
“My family and I had the great privilege of being invited to share in Chaiyanu’s Chanukah celebration at the Globus Max Theatres in Petach Tikvah. The entire lobby was set up in such a beautiful way to make each of the many, many families feel like honored guests. Amidst whatever terrible pain and struggles these children and their families are facing, it was far from apparent on their faces. Every child was smiling from ear to ear,” wrote a celebrant afterwards.
Chanukah parties in London and Manchester brightened the holidays for the families of Camp Simcha UK, Chai Lifeline’s British affiliate. In London, children were treated to ice skating, crafts and an incredible laser show. Manchester families enjoyed arcade games, arts and crafts, inflatable rides, face-painting and donut decorating. In addition, toy drives in more than 50 schools yielded 7,000 gifts that were delivered to 120 hospital wards and clinics throughout the country.
Chai Lifeline Canada, our northern neighbor, turned the Rinx Entertainment Center in to a Chanukah wonderland for Toronto families. Three thousand toys collected during the region’s toy drive were displayed around the perimeter of the rink and children were able to choose their favorites to take home. More than 600 family members roller skated, built menorahs, decorated cookies, captured one another during laser tag, and enjoyed a Chanukah BBQ. The joy was repeated in Montreal, where Chai Lifeline’s new office celebrated with a family party and a special donut and stuffed-bear giveaway at Montreal Children’s Hospital.
“These events show families the strength we have when we come together,” commented Rabbi Simcha Scholar. “Being with others who are also struggling with illness or loss helps family members feel less isolated and strengthens connections that continue throughout the year.”
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)