The Greatest Beracha in Life

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5 Responses

  1. Sara Miriam Kaplan says:

    How do I even begin to write about what can only be described as a magical experience? I am still on an incredible high from it all. I have been involoved with Kids of Courage since its inception, a little over a year ago. This grass-roots, volunteer based organization was founded to, “Conquer Illness Through Adventure”. We take children with a variety of chronic, serious, and life-limiting illnesses on adventure trips. Nuts. I know. But oh, what an experience. Having worked as a pediatric critical care nurse for around ten years, I do not often have an opportunity to see children with serious problems enjoy themselves. This last year has changed all of that, and has changed my perception of illness and life. I am priveleged to work with an amazingly talented group of co-founders. Dr. Stuart Ditchek, M.D is a pediatrician in Brooklyn with a large number of seriously ill patients with complex medical problems. Howie Kafka is our chief paramedic, and a senior member of Hatzalah (RL-34). Ari Adlerstein is a law student. Together with our boys head counselor and program director Ari Dobkin, and our girls head counselors Jeanne Franco and Elisheva Heyman, we have been fortunate to have a tremendous amount of help from The One Above in pulling together such an amazing trip in a rediculously short amount of time. The decision was made to take the kids and young adults ranging in age from 6 to 26 to Orlando for a week of fun and adventure and give them the opportunity to experience things that other children their age are able to do on a regular basis. However, due to their physical challenges, our kids are often limited in their ability to do so. From our fearless leaders, I have learned the power of not saying no, of giving every child a chance. Because of the sheer size and complexity of our group, a Continental Airlines jet was chartered from New York with 175 members of our group on it. In addition, there were flights from Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Montreal, Houston, and Los Angeles. The scene in the airport was one of utter maddness, but Continental did an amazing job in helping us pull it all together. We arrived in Orlando and Landed on the tarmac, with the buses pulled up right next to the airplane, so the children and luggage could be loaded directly on them, without having to go through the entire airport. From that point on, it was non-stop action. We had an amazing group of logistical staff who valiantly attempted to set up the infirmary. I really cannot begin to describe what it looked like. An incredible group of nurses (thanks Avigail, Ellen, Aline, and Ma!) complimented by Doctors (thanks Rich and Dr. D) and EMT/Medics (thanks Howie, Ranaan, Alex, and Matis) was privleged to care for the special kids and young adults. A beautiful and uplifting shabbos at the beginning of our trip allowed everyone to bond and enjoy each other’s company. We journeyed through the Disney parks, Sea World, a Tampa Bay Rays game, along with many other phenomenal programs. There was always something planned, nobody was ever bored.
    However, to me, as wonderful as all the activities were, it was learning the value of life that was the biggest lesson I took out from this. Our population is one that lives with daily challenges that as adults would just boggle our minds, but they pick up and persevere. They could be in FD crises one minute, get their Valium, and 20 minutes later be watching a show. I have learned to look at the big picture, that we are all part of Hashem’s world, and each kid is an incredible work of art. They make look different to some, but inside they are the same as every other child. Their daily routine is one of meds, doctors and hospitals, and for one week we were priveleged to help them put that on the back burner. We took a young man who is paralyzed and dependent on a ventilator on the Jurrasic Park ride, with an 80 foot drop, at 50 miles an hour. Crazy. But as his mother told me when she saw the pictures, Kids of Courage treats her son like he is one of the gang. I feel incredibly special to have been surrounded by Howie, Dr. D, and Ari who have inspired me and shown me that we can do it. Thank you for letting me be a part of it all

  2. Pesach Sommer says:

    Ashreicha Rabbi Adlerstein. What your son has accomplished can not be described with words. You have much of which to be proud.

  3. Shkoyach says:

    Wow. I was on the trip and seeing it through someone else’s perspective was totally eye-opening. Tears were streaming down my face as I read through this eloquent article. May Hashem grant us continued bracha of a life this year and the ability to share it with special people like the children who help us see it so clearly.

  4. Stuart Cagen says:

    Thanks to Rabbi Adlerstein for his moving and happily accurate account of the Orlando trip. As a parent of one of the kids of Kids of Courage, it is rare to see this level of insight. I have often felt the ‘parents’ have a special view and concomitant appreciation of something as special as the Kids of Courage program. While the TV stations, Continental employees, and others might have been similarly impressed with the planning, management and execution of the event, you have also captured the beauty of the kids and their special relationship with their dedicated caretakers and dear friends. I am running out of words to express my appreciation to Kids of Courage. Thanks also for whatever you did to inspire/encourage your Ari. Let me know what it is, I’d like to bottle it.

  5. kar says:

    kol hakavod – yeshalem hashem pa’alechem

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