If you were anywhere near the Merkaz HaSimcha party hall in Brooklyn this past MotzaeiShabbos between the hours of 8:00 and 11:00 p.m., you probably found it even more difficult than usual to find a parking spot. Blocks upon blocks of KOC-magnet-clad cars and streets filled with wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, and ventilators. No, it was not a dark and stormy night, but it was definitely thunderous inside the hall. Kids of Courage was at it again.
This year’s annual Kids of Courage Chanukah Extravaganza was a lively event, as KOC events are known to be. The food was plentiful and delicious, the DJ kept the tunes going all night long, and the Courager family was partying it up. Throughout the non-stop dancing—which included wheelchair wheelies by famous and infamous Courager, Moshe, little Aryeh swinging his crutches in the air to the beat, and Boruch zooming around and doing the “Electric Slide”—there were countless hugs between friends-turned-family, demonstrating the warmth that is Kids of Courage; the spirits were running sky high. The Kids of Courage Chanukah event is unique compared to the other events in that the Couragers’ parents and siblings are invited to participate as well, really putting meaning to the name of the hall: “Merkaz HaSimcha.” Simcha was in the air and it was palpable—even Leiby didn’t need his ventilator to take it in.
On Chanukah, we celebrate our victory over the ancient Greeks, a people who put much importance on physical prowess and appearance. What better way to prepare for this chag than to have Couragers, their families, and KOC staff all on one dance floor as one homogeneous group. How can one possibly publicize the miracle of Chanukah more than by doing what is always done at Kids of Courage: showing the world that a person is just that—a person, no matter how they walk or don’t, what medications they take, and what challenges they face. Where others may see disability, KOC sees opportunity—opportunity to do normal things like have a rocking Chanukah party with children and young adults who are normal despite what the Ancient Greeks would have said.
As the music turned off, the Couragers left with gifts courtesy of generous sponsor Junee/Junee Jr. Though the hour was late, the party did not die down; it was just put to a low simmer until the next KOC event, the next gathering of troops who are always fighting to have a blast no matter the conditions. The energy is always there and, like the oil of the menorah, never runs out. Not by routine hospital visits, not by anything. Kids of Courage Chanukah Extravaganza 2014 was just another example of why these special children are the world’s bright lights.
Kids of Courage is a volunteer-based, nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of chronically ill children and young adults through year-round programming and semiannual adventure trips. Its next event is an adaptive ski trip in the beautiful mountains of Vermont in January. For more information or to make a donation, visit kidsoc.org or follow them on your favorite social-media site at @KidsOfCourage.