By Ari Rosenfeld
They flew in from all corners, but these humble heroes chose to use airplanes as opposed to their capes. The Ohr Meir way is to deliver results—not broadcast them. Last week, I had the privilege of once again taking part in Ohr Meir’s flagship Orlando trip, an experience that simply does not grow old. An opportunity to work hand in hand with some of the finest people you could ever meet. People who give and give everything they have to offer and then they give some more.
This year’s trip again included trips to Sea World, Islands of Adventures, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, and Dave & Buster’s. DJ Yitzy Wadiche was back to “Rock Orlando” and we had a surprise trip/shopping spree to Toys R Us, a magical fireworks display (sponsored by Meridian Capital) that followed a simply unfathomable Frozen-themed banquet. There were endless gifts like Disney balloons and linen, stuffed animals and dolls, and even their very own digital cameras! There were also surprises like magicians, face painters, balloon artists, caricaturists, and at the trip’s conclusion a personalized photo album is given to each child filled with pictures of themselves throughout the trip.
Through this, the children were given the ability to escape back into their childhood and for at least a few days, just have fun. This trip allowed children who are so accustomed to being recognized for the disease they have to be recognized for who they are. It lifted the spirits of those whose had understandably fallen so far. It instilled self-confidence into children who were so sorely lacking. They were shown just how much they matter and that they are loved and cared for by not just someone but by everyone. Being an eyewitness to one miraculous transformation after another is simply indescribable. I watched how children who arrived unsure and insecure blossomed into the life of the party. They went from cancer patients who are children to children who happen to have cancer. It’s a world of a difference.
Can four days make such a difference in the lives of these children? Yes! It’s an unforgettable experience that gives these warriors a much-needed boost and helps them continue on with their courageous fight.
One would have a hard time believing that a trip like this is even logistically feasible considering the children’s specific individual needs on various fronts. While the trip may take place from a Sunday through Wednesday, the planning, coordinating, and ordering are months in the making. Prior to the trip, endless hours are spent on the phones gathering information on the campers so that we can do our very best to accommodate them comfortably; attention to detail is key. Time and thought is put into everything. The kids are from all around the country and at times out of the country, and so even arranging all the flights, pick-ups, and drop-offs is quite a daunting task.
Whether it’s seeing to it that their luggage or Toys R Us loot gets magically delivered to their rooms while they’re out having fun or starting breakfast prep early so that special diets can be catered to while the kids are still fast asleep, no stone gets left unturned. Magical decorative transformations are constantly taking place just to keep things fresh and fun. The crew members are at work long after the campers go to bed and well before they wake up. Exhausting? Yes. Rewarding? You bet!
Year after year, the Ohr Meir team works diligently, tirelessly, and happily to try and ensure another successful trip which, baruch Hashem, we had again this year. Things appeared to run extremely smoothly and the kids had no idea just how much time and effort went into every aspect . . . which is just the way we like it.
The Ohr Meir family is a group of special people, starting with Ari and Idy Friedman, who established the foundation over 20 years ago in memory of their son Meir, and continuing with their children and extended family. The doctors, nurses, cook, and entire crew, as well as all the counselors, are volunteers, meaning every dollar is used directly for the kids. The entire team shares the hope that this trip, as well as the other programs the foundation runs, becomes unnecessary in the future, but should that sadly not be the case you can be certain that Ohr Meir will be there to put smiles on those less fortunate faces.
For more information or to donate, please visit www.ohrmeir.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to 3023 Avenue J, Brooklyn, NY 11210.