Mitzvah Market Magazine: Helping Hospitalized Kids Is A Family Tradition

Mitzvah Market Magazine: Helping Hospitalized Kids Is A Family Tradition

By Jared Schwartz

Tradition, family, and giving back has been a big part of my life since day one. Yet, it’s only recently that I truly understood its importance.

From a young age I have been attending my family’s Adam Scott Weiss (ASW) Cares for Kids fundraisers year after year. When I was as young as five, I never really understood the meaning behind them. To me, it was just a fun party, as I would see family and friends, eat good food, and ask the DJ to play my favorite songs. However, I will never forget sitting at family dinners and hearing everyone discussing ways to improve the fund, and planning for the upcoming year. During these years of repeating these traditions I began to understand what this was all about.

My mom’s oldest brother, Adam, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer when he was 10 and she was 7. As you’d expect, Adam spent many days in the hospital, and time passed quite slowly. Adam had nothing but a hospital bed and a tiny TV in his room at NYU Langone Medical Center. Few toys, games, and books could be found in the hospital playroom. Not only was this terrible for the children in the hospital, but boring for my mom and my uncles, who would always visit Adam for extended periods of time on the weekends.

Unfortunately, Adam passed away at age 12, which left my mom, grandparents, and uncles devastated. But sitting there, just being sad wouldn’t help anyone; it couldn’t be an option. So, after mourning, they created ASW Cares for Kids, a family foundation. The mission was to make sick kids’ lives more enjoyable and help them and their families pass time faster while they’re undergoing treatment as a patient in the hospital. Drawing on their experience while Adam was in the hospital for so many weeks, they began to transition the 9th floor of NYU Medical Center into a more child-friendly environment; adding a functional playroom, media center, library, a pantry where a family can warm a home cooked meal, and a treatment room for invasive procedures with an elaborate fish tank and movie screen to distract the children during these painful treatments.

When I began to study for my Bar Mitzvah and the cantor spoke to our class about a Mitzvah Project, it was very obvious to me what I would do. As I always knew that diagnosis of a sick child cannot be helped, however the way a sick child goes about their day can. So, I spoke with the Supervisor for Pediatric Services at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone and we brainstormed ideas. She told me that bubbles, Play-Doh, Uno, other card games, and crayons are items that are always needed for the children. Because they are concerned about spreading germs, these are single use items and they can never be shared.

After that conversation, my mom and I had a card printed up to be enclosed with my Bar Mitzvah invitation asking all my guests to kindly bring some of these items with them on May 11th. With that, the Amazon deliveries to my house bringing boxes of Crayola, decks of cards, and bubbles were amazing! Friends from Florida and Massachusetts, who were unable to attend but wanted to help, sent as much as they could.

And then, coming home from my party with eight boxes full of the requested items made my whole Bar Mitzvah experience worth it. Knowing and hearing from people and the child life specialists working at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital about how many kids’ lives and days were about to be made more enjoyable was so special to me and made it so worth my while.

One lesson I’ve learned from studying my family’s organization and becoming a man in the Jewish religion officially at my Bar Mitzvah, is how to make the best out of everything that happens to you in your life. In fact, that was one of the main points I wrote about in my speech on my special day; if something in your life isn’t going right, don’t waste your time on that, find something else to do, or learn and grow with it. This is a lesson I am continuing to use and will take with me forever.

As I said, tradition is a big part of my life. One of my goals is to take the keys of this charity and inspire others, including, hopefully, my siblings and cousins. I hope to keep the tradition going, and someday give my own kids the gift of doing things in your life to benefit others that I was given at a young age. At the end of this Mitzvah Project, my wish is to expand on the mission to help hospitalized children and their families.

To give back will become my personal tradition.

Jared Schwartz is an 8th grader from West Harrison, NY. To learn more about ASW Cares for Kids, visit aswcaresforkids.org.

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