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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Englewood resident Ayelet Poupko has seen her share of tragedy. Her younger sister Chana passed away at the age of 2 ½, following 18 months of cancer treatment at Hackensack Meridian Health’s Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center. In the years since, the Poupko family has continued a close relationship with the hospital and its staff, specifically Chana’s care team.

“We go two or three times a year to visit, and bring gifts at the holidays,” commented Dr. Shoshana Poupko, Ayelet’s mother and wife of Rabbi Chaim Poupko, spiritual leader of Congregation Ahavath Torah. “Once a year I check in with Child Life to see if there is anything they need.”

In fact, the family had previously raised funds to dedicate an apartment for Sabbath observant families on the hospital campus.

This charitable outlook has clearly rubbed off on Ayelet. As her bat mitzvah approached, Ayelet said, unsolicited, that she did “not need electronics or jewelry,” but wanted to help children who truly needed things. She said that “while it’s good that a lot of money goes towards research, it’s also important to raise money for toys, activities and supplies to help [patients] get through the treatment.”

Shoshana contacted the Child Life Department at the hospital to see what they needed and, after much coaxing, was told that there were four items that would make children’s hospital stays more pleasant, things the hospital was not in a position to provide. The suggested items were sound machines, to help the children sleep better amid the noises of the hospital; small Lego sets; Model Magic modeling clay; and smaller Pack ’n Plays.

Ayelet immediately got to work raising the needed funds, setting her initial goal at $3,600. “Once she said to donate in lieu of gifts, the funds really came in,” noted Shoshana.

Ayelet’s bat mitzvah was on March 16 and, even after that date, funds continued to pour in. As the date to give the gift approached, the check was made out in the amount of $12,000, but the donations kept coming. At press time, Ayelet had raised $13,250.

Tackle Kids Cancer is an initiative that raises money for pediatric cancer research and patient care programs at the Children’s Cancer Institute at Hackensack Meridian Health.

Ayelet is still collecting donations, which can be made through her website at ayeletpoupko.com.

The Poupko family wishes to thank the Congregation Ahavath Torah community of Englewood, from which came the primary support for this initiative.

By Jill Kirsch