Fighting Cancer With Chai Lifeline

June 22, 2012 4:43 pm 1 comment

June fundraiser in New York. In front, cancer patient and Chai Lifeline "warrior, " Roni. In back, her mother Inbar, brother Orr, father Yoram, and brother Alon. Photo: Maxine Dovere

“I stand before you on one leg, more aware of every moment of life…Failure is not an option,” said 20-year-old Anna Carissa Rahm, diagnosed at 17 with a rare bone cancer called osteosarcoma that led to surgery which removed her right leg, at the New York Marriot Hotel earlier this month.

More than 1,000 people rose on two legs to give the young survivor a standing ovation.

Such is the enthusiasm and spirit of volunteerism aroused by Chai Lifeline, the Jewish community’s most well-known cancer support organization.

“We are a small charity, raising perhaps $20 million a year,” Chai Lifeline Executive Director Abraham “Avi” Cohen told JNS.org. “Yet, because of our more than 5,000 volunteers, we can do a $100 million worth of work.”

Chai Lifeline’s June 5 gathering was filled with the warmth and caring of a huge family reunion. The event celebrated and supported the work of Chai Lifeline and its summer program, Camp Simcha. Drew Niv, CEO of FXCM, was honored as “Man of the Year”; Uzi Elliahou received the Legacy of Hope Award; Inbar and Yoram Bibring were given the Triumph of Hope Honor Award; and Chip Krotee received the Children’s Champion Award.

Founded in 1987, Chai Lifeline 25 later serves hundreds of children suffering from cancer, hematological illnesses and other chronic conditions in America and through its affiliated programs in Canada, England, Israel, and Belgium. Supporters who joined forces at the 2012 Awards Dinner for Corporate Sponsors included families and individuals who have been reinvigorated by the happiness and rejuvenated by the hope that blossoms in Chai Lifeline’s Camp Simcha summer program, and patrons and sponsors from major corporations in the financial and fashion worlds.

At Camp Simcha, the challenge is to create as close to a “normal” camping experience as possible for children whose summer expeditions might otherwise be limited to hospital hallways.  Skilled medical professionals provide specialized care for children who require active treatment, including transportation to local hospitals for life-saving care.

Camp Simcha “turns sick kids into campers.” The 125-acre campus in upstate New York helps children with cancer enjoy traditional summer camp activities. Submersible wheelchairs assure that every child can go “swimming.” Bunks have ramps able to accommodate wheelchairs, and pontoon boats are equipped to enable wheelchair-dependent children to enjoy the water.

“The program is non-stop,” Avi Cohen told JNS.org, “using fun and love as tools in the fight against illness and isolation.”

Oncologist Dr. Peter Steinherz heads a team of Chai Lifeline medical professionals aided by social workers and physical therapists. Inbar Bibring, an honoree and the mother of cancer patient Roni, 19, said Steinherz “is a mensch unlike any other I’ve met on this difficult journey.”

Roni, a Chai Lifeline “warrior,” was diagnosed in Israel. After a failed first round of therapy, Inbar and Yoram, her parents, decided to bring their critically ill daughter to New York for further treatment. They were introduced to Steinherz, who was visiting Israel. Yoram told JNS.org that Steinherz invited the family to fly from Tel Aviv to New York with him and stayed with the family throughout the flight. After Roni was admitted to the hospital Steinherz “would come to visit us daily,” Inbar told JNS.org.

Pink roses and a tip of the hat from cancer survivor Sari Ort, the youngest speaker at the Chai Lifeline 2012 Awards Dinner. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

While Sari Ort was on vacation in Israel with her family, the unusual pain the then-10 year old suffered led to her diagnosis: cancer. Her parents, already supporters of Chai Life Line, now turned to the program to aid their daughter. At the New York Marriot, the charming 12-year-old spoke about Chai Lifeline.

“Chai Life line volunteers ‘get it’…It makes me feel happy to know I’m not the only one [who suffers from cancer],” Sari said.

Throughout the year, Chai Lifeline advocates for children and their families, providing guidance and assistance in many areas including transportation for treatments, and sometimes—perhaps a dose of Jewish penicillin—providing hot meals and chicken soup to families battling childhood illnesses. “ChaiLine” telephone support groups provide support via conference calls facilitated by professional therapists. Children and parents are given services essential to help them manage the impact of illness. The Homebound Educational Learning Program helps children keep their academic work current.

Through its adjunct programs, including “Big Brothers & Sisters,” each child receives regular visits at home or in hospital. Separate “bigs” may be assigned to help other children in a family, helping siblings cope with the illness of a brother or sister, ensuring that every child in the family feels special. 

Chai Lifeline works to “engender hope and optimism…educate and involve… and provide unparalleled support.” There are no fees or charges for any of the services provided by the organization. Should a child die, Chai Lifeline continues its support of families through the Healing Hearts Bereavement Program.

While hundreds of children are able to participate in the Camp Simcha summer programs, hundreds also remain on the waiting list. To meet these needs, Chai Lifeline plans to build an additional 20 “bunks” at Camp Simcha. The special requirements needed to provide a suitable summer “home” for cancer-stricken campers brings the cost of each bunk to approximately $250,000. One goal of the 2012 Gala was to raise 5 million dollars to complete the construction of these facilities; final fundraising totals from the New York event were not yet available as of this report.

1 Comment

  • Chicken Soup for the Soul: It’s organizations like this that make the difference, and it could be said, this is what LIFE, Chai, is all about. People search for meaning, and are often cruel, as in “mean” to each other, and terribly brutal, as recent events and past events are so filled with stories that shouldn’t have happened. We can control, I hope, our ways of being, with each other, and we can STOP the bullying that occurs around the world, in big and small ways.

    It’s wonderful to come to a story of love, and hope. My best to this beautiful young girl and my best to Camp Simcha and all people who work to make smiles go a long way!

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Blogs 10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    Ten major film studios are currently in production on projects that promote a decidedly pro-Israeli narrative. In famously liberal Hollywood, such a development has left mouths agape and set tongues a wagging. Since the Jewish State began defending itself from the thousands of rockets that Hamas has hurled at it – as well as ongoing terror attacks and murders, the overwhelming number of Tinseltown’s producers, directors, actors, and studio moguls have remained indifferent to the plight of millions of Israeli [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Sports So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    Israeli Judoka Yarden Gerbi (63kg), 25, of Netanya, on Thursday lost the final round at the Judo World Cup, and her world title to Clarisse Agbegnenou of France, at a match held in Russia. “I have mixed feelings,” Gerbi told Israeli Army radio. But, “I shouldn’t assume that I’d win the world Judo championship twice in a row,” she admitted. Gerbi won gold in Rio De Janeiro last year. “When I made my decision, I knew it was going to [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    “Jews Out!” was just the name of a child’s game that three little girls played in World War II Europe. But all is not as it seems because the three girls were Jewish, but hiding their true identities. In award-winning author R. D. Rosen’s riveting non-fiction work, Such Good Girls, “Jews Out!” wasn’t a game; it was a struggle for survival. The girls, Sophie, Flora, and Carla, grew up at a time and a place that did not allow them [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    JNS.org – “He was part hippie, part yippie, part beatnik, and part New Age,” wrote Elli Wohlgelernter in a Jerusalem Post eulogy in 1994, following the Oct. 20 passing of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Twenty years later, more robust accounts of Carlebach’s life have come to the surface. Earlier this year, Natan Ophir published the book Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission & Legacy. This past summer, Rabbi Shlomo Katz’s The Soul of Jerusalem hit the shelves. But even the authors will admit [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the morale of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.