Misameach’s annual midwinter event is designed to bring families with sick children together for a magical evening of excitement and song, in keeping with the organization’s mission to bring joy to the lives of children who need it most. This year’s event, held on Monday, February 2, was attended by close to a thousand members of the Misameach family.
The entire Lake Terrace was transformed into an indoor forest. In the lobby, a giant, realistic-looking wooden structure bore a sign reading “Misameach National Park,” serving as the “visitor’s center” where guests received their gift bags chock-full of toys and entertainment for children of all ages, as well as tickets to enter into an exciting raffle.
Walking into the main room, one truly felt transported to a lush forest. Actual trees surrounded a floor of leaves and dirt, and the smell of fresh pine lent authenticity to the scene. The green lighting reflected the trees and cast their glow on a towering skyway, painstakingly built by dedicated volunteers over many hours. Children climbed the steps to the enclosure on top for a bird’s-eye view of the breathtaking scene.
In the center of the huge room were the bears of the forest. Large cages housed the animals to be used in a grand show later that evening. Meanwhile, children enjoyed watching the bears roam around their enclosures from a closer vantage point than at the zoo.
But the elaborate scenery was only the beginning. A lavish spread by Greenwald Caterers allowed parents to feed their families from a virtually unlimited buffet. Cotton candy, popcorn, snow cones, candy, and cookies made for sticky and satisfying dessert options.
An abundance of activities kept attendees busy, including carnival booths, crafts, face-painting, and a number of exciting inflatable rides.
Before the entertainment portion of the evening began, Misameach presented an award to Investors Bank in recognition of their generous contributions to Misameach. Beloved pediatrician Dr. Reuven Shanik was recognized for his great devotion to all of Lakewood’s children and to the entire Lakewood community.
Dr. Shanik participated in a lively on-stage rekidah with volunteers and then said a few words of praise for the lifesaving work of Misameach. Later, Dr. Shanik also accepted an award on behalf of Dr. Ian Jacobs, medical director of the Center for Pediatric Airway Disorders at the prestigious Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), in gratitude for his dedication to and care of many of the Misameach children.
Once all of the awards were presented, the music struck up a lively tune and some of the popular names in Jewish music took to the stage to spread their unique brands of joy. The lineup included, in order of appearance, Uri Davidi, Yoni Z, and Benny Friedman.
The New Jersey Transit Police, brought in to the event with the help of the New Jersey Chaplains Association, presented a K9 dog show, followed by questions from the audience (especially the preteen boys!).
The Twins from France delighted the audience with their trademark antics, putting on a show the children are sure to remember.
Finally, the bears had their moment in the spotlight, with children and adults watching in fascination as the large animals jumped, rolled, danced, and performed intricate tricks. The show was the highlight of the event for many, who were amazed by Misameach’s ability to come up with such unique and innovative shows every year.
Though the event was officially supposed to end at 8:00 p.m., guests lingered far longer, unwilling to leave the magical atmosphere and the spirit of warmth and camaraderie that pervaded Lake Terrace that night.
If one had to choose the defining feature of the night, it would be the glowing smiles evident on the faces of every parent, child, volunteer, and caretaker present at this evening that will long be remembered created by an organization that has profoundly touched so many lives.