Life is full of surprises. One of the worst surprises that families can face is a parent’s life-threatening medical diagnosis. Chai4ever, the only organization of its kind, is there to alleviate the strain that families are forced to deal with in these critical situations. As families struggle with decisions that need to be made regarding treatments, protocol, doctors and hospitals, Chai4ever relieves the stress of child care, financial burdens, psychological effects on family members, meals, transportation, housekeeping and more. Chai4ever partners with school, synagogues and communities to help them work together to mitigate the potentially devastating impact of serious illness or community crises. It helps families overcome these and other hurdles both professionally and compassionately.
Samuel Zaks, founder and chief executive officer of Chai4ever, explains the organization’s empathetic approach: “At Chai4ever, every family is seen as an individual unit with its own unique needs. Whether with crisis intervention, practical assistance, emotional support or financial and medical advocacy, we work to help with a targeted mix of services that will help the family thrive, not just survive.”
Recently, The Jewish Link of New Jersey was invited to attend a Chai4ever informational gala at the West Side Institutional Synagogue. Hadas, a recipient of the organization’s services, best able to describe the effect that Chai4ever had on her and her family, addressed the attendees. This young mother spoke of her trauma upon being diagnosed with breast cancer at a time when everything was going so well in her family.
She and her husband had always been in a position to donate to various chesed groups; never did they expect to be on the receiving side. Her diagnosis came shortly before Chanukah, and what was to have been a joyous festival became an additional worry to her and her husband. How were they able to celebrate with their children when they were going through such trauma?
Reluctantly, they agreed to speak with a representative of Chai4ever. Within a day, Chanukah presents for their children began arriving. A trained social worker met with them and evaluated what would be best for their family’s needs. Activities for their children were planned regularly to allow them to bond with other kids whose families were facing the same stresses.
As their 12-year-old daughter Sarah so eloquently said at the event, she suddenly realized that she was not alone. She found friends who were in similar situations. These friendships have evolved into what will probably be lifetime relationships.
One of the highlights for their daughter, who had never been away from home, was journeying to Florida with Chai4ever’s summer camp, Camp4ever. Every day the buses would stop in a different city and the children would be able to enjoy trips, sports, crafts and activities specially designed to foster bonding and self-confidence.
Chai4ever plans family day trips and specific activities for children, along with meetings and retreats for the parents, giving them an opportunity to release their stress outside of the home. Children also have the opportunity to participate in a summer travel camp, where each child is assigned his or her very own counselor who serves as a friend and mentor. For those in need, Chai4ever also assists with financial aid and insurance advocacy. Both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities benefit from the services of Chai4ever, and families with any traumatic diagnosis are encouraged to avail themselves of its services.
Chai4ever is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization. The organization can be reached at 646-519-2190. Further information is available on their website at www.chai4ever.org.
By Nina Glick