When his uncle Michael was diagnosed with brain cancer just over a year ago, George Weiner dug his cleats deeper in the batter’s box while also skating hard to check their foe into the boards.
That’s because George, now 13 and a dedicated ice hockey player, was very close with Michael Weiner, the Major League Baseball Players Association’s executive director. So as he considered last August what project to embrace for his upcoming bar mitzvah, George honed in on fighting the disease that would take his uncle’s life.
George has already raised more than $1,800 through sales of Voices Against Brain Cancer: Friends of Mike decals – one 1-inch-diameter, $1 sticker at a time – to young hockey players and their parents.
In Facebook posts about the cause, George, a defenseman on a team near his Wayne, N.J., home, also has found supporters clear across the country. A youth hockey team in Los Angeles ordered $50 worth of decals, and other teams followed. At a November tournament in Chicago, David Weiner said, he was stunned to see his son “walk up to strangers to say, ‘I’m selling these stickers because my uncle was diagnosed with brain cancer.’ ”
At that event alone, David related, George raised about $300. “He was very poised,” he said.
Michael Weiner attended his nephew’s bar mitzvah on Nov. 16, at Wayne’s Temple Beth Tikvah, but died five days later at age 51, leaving behind a wife and three daughters. Along with the decal sales whose proceeds he forwarded to the New York-based charity Voices Against Brain Cancer, George contributed $1,000 from his bar mitzvah gifts.
George “taking something dear to him, which is hockey,” and applying it to help his uncle and others afflicted with the disease demonstrates that performing mitzvot “is fun because it’s innately rewarding, and it’s fun helping other people and working for a truly worthy cause,” Beth Tikvah’s rabbi, Stephen Wylen, told JTA.
While a cure for brain cancer isn’t imminent, “as Rabbi Tarfon said, ‘It’s not your obligation to complete the work, but neither are you to desist from it,’ ” Wylen, quoting from Pirkei Avot 2:21, said.
JTA spoke Sunday with George Weiner.
How did you design the sticker you used in your fundraising effort?
I found a website that said you could design your own sticker. I just had to find the measurement. I knew the color of the [official] ribbon was gray. I had trouble thinking of what to actually say on the sticker. I started off simple, by writing, “Join the Fight Against Brain Cancer.” Now the sticker says, “Voices Against Brain Cancer: Friends of Mike.”
Your mother Ronni faced, and has beaten, breast cancer. How have you, as such a young person, dealt with the terrible things that have happened to people around you?
With my mom, I was very little, so I wasn’t really aware of it. I think back to what she must’ve been going through and think of how lucky we are that she got cured of it. With my …read more