TORONTO — “Chai Lifeline is always there for anyone who needs help,” said Shani Goldner whose son, Nachman, has cerebral palsy.
Nachman, 10, who has six brothers and sisters, is the only child in the family with a disability.
“Nachman does well cognitively,” said his mother, “but physically he can’t walk. At home, we have built things to accommodate him.”
She told The CJN about her gratitude to Chai Lifeline for sending volunteers to her home to help with Nachman and the other children, and provide them with a camping experience, the Shining Star after-school program and many other services.
“It gives us some respite and allows the family to do things together that Nachman cannot do,” she said.
Chai Lifeline Canada is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in Toronto. It was started seven years ago under the leadership of Rabbi Mordechai Rothman, who understood that when a child is diagnosed with a serious pediatric or chronic illness, the sick child, as well as siblings and parents, need support.
For children with cancer, dysautonomia, muscular dystrophy, Crohn’s disease, cerebral palsy, Pelizaeus–Merzbacher disease (PMD), Soto syndrome and genetic diseases, Chai Lifeline has a multitude of programs and services.
“We have become exceptional at what we do because we have built on the knowledge and the expertise of International Chai Lifeline,” said Craig Fried, director of development of Chai Lifeline Canada.
“However, our funding is completely separate from the international organization,” he added.
Fried said that if a child in Canada needs counselling, tutoring, financial aid or wants to attend a summer camp, the funds are raised here and the services are free of charge.
The organization has 150 loyal volunteers who give their time to support Chai Lifeline’s big-brothers and big-sisters program.
“The volunteers visit our kids at the hospital and at home, and they help us with many other programs,” Fried said.
“Our donors are honestly my heroes. They truly make this all possible. Our work is never done, as we are growing every day with more referrals from the Hospital for Sick Children and from the community.”
He added that Chai Lifeline wants the community, the schools and synagogues to know it is there for them.
“They should reach out to us for support. Our motto is ‘Fighting Illness with Love,’” Fried said. “We are dedicated to meeting the social and emotional need of the children, as well as their families. Many times financial devastation occurs for the family.”
Chai Lifeline operates family retreats, special sibling programs, offers peer and professional support, trips to Disneyland in Florida and other locations, and runs two extraordinary camp programs for seriously ill children.
Camp Simcha in upstate New York, has two-week sessions, and Camp Simcha Special expands on the Camp Simcha model to fit the needs of children with severe needs that require continuous medical management.
“This helps the children and their families retain a sense of normalcy,” Fried said, “and gives the parents much-needed respite.”
For more information about Chai Lifeline, call 647-430-5933 or visit its website, www.chailifelinecanada.org.