Mitzvah Market Magazine: Project Bell

Mitzvah Market Magazine: Project Bell

By Isabella Spar
For my Mitzvah Project, I decided to do something close to my heart. Last summer, when I got home from sleepaway camp, I found out that my mom had been diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. Although it was benign, it was located in a very bad part of the brain and was already causing damage. She needed to go to Massachusetts General Hospital for six weeks of proton radiation. One week after I got home, my family and my grandparents all left for Boston. This was a very hard transition for me and my younger sister, Alexa, since it all happened so suddenly. I was very scared, sad and angry.

During her radiation, we were given pink rubber wristbands to wear, with the words “Hope”, “Faith”, “Strength”, and “Survivor” as a way to inspire the patients and their families. My family and I never took off these bracelets because they meant so much to us.

We then found out that at the end of each patient’s course of treatment, they get to ring a very large bell to symbolize the end of their radiation and a new beginning. The bell has a plaque which reads: “Ring this bell, three times well; its toll will clearly say, my treatment’s done, my course is run, and now I’m on my way.” Patients recite this and then ring the bell three times while family members, staff and other patients celebrate with them. As we watched other patients ring the bell, we saw that it served as a source of inspiration and accomplishment for them.

Everyone looked forward to their bell-ringing date. Towards the end of her treatment, my mom asked my family to get her a pretty bracelet with a bell on it. After we searched the internet but didn’t find anything, she asked if I could make her a bracelet. Together we created a beautiful bangle bracelet with a bell charm and two others with the words “Hope” and “Faith.” My mom liked it so much that I made more for the whole family. Then she had me make extras to give to other patients who had become her friends, in order to help inspire them as well.

My mom wore the bracelet to her bell ringing. Both the bracelet and the bell ringing ceremony were such a source of motivation and accomplishment for my mother and our whole family. In fact, my grandfather bought her a miniature bell for our home for her to ring every day and remind her of her new beginning.

We soon discovered that only a few radiation centers in the United States have bells for their patients to ring. Suddenly I knew what I would do for my Mitzvah Project. I created Project Bell to raise money to donate these “new beginning” bells to centers around the country.

I began to make and sell bracelets, chokers and leather wristbands with inspirational charms to raise money for my project. One hundred percent of the net profits go to buy bells and plaques for radiation centers that don’t have them. Everything is sold on my Website projectbell.org for $18, or “chai,” which means life. So far I have raised over $5,500 and donated 15 bells.

I have been invited to several bell dedication ceremonies, but two really moved me. At Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, I got to watch Gladys, a hospital employee who had just finished her treatment, be the first person to ring the bell that I had donated and rejoice with her family, friends, doctors and technicians. She asked me to take photos with her. We stood next to the bell, hugging each other, as she cried tears of happiness and thanked me for donating it. I had a similar touching experience at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, where I got to observe Art ringing their new bell. He hugged me right afterward and the entire room broke out in applause and tears. I got to hear about his treatments and experiences during radiation, as well as meet other patients who would one day be ringing the bell. It was incredible to see how much the patients and their families looked forward to this special day. I felt so honored to be part of both of their special moments.

This Mitzvah Project has really impacted my life. It brings me joy to know that there is something for the patients to look forward to, like a light at the end of the tunnel. I love seeing the faces of the patients when they get to ring the bell. I also love knowing that the bracelets I make provide a source of inspiration for so many.

This has made my Bat Mitzvah extra memorable because not only did I have a special day, but I was able to help other people have their own special day. Plus, giving back to other patients helped me get through the sadness, fear and anger I had been feeling about my mom’s diagnosis. (She’s doing great, now, by the way!) More than 12,000 patients a year will ring the bells I have donated to hospitals and radiation centers throughout the country, which makes me so happy.

Although my Bat Mitzvah is over, I am definitely not stopping Project Bell. By the time I go to college, my goal is to have every radiation center in the United States that wants one to have a bell. This is a ton of radiation centers, but it would be absolutely amazing to know that I have made that much of an impact.

Isabella Spar is an 8th grader from Ardsley, NY. To learn more about her project, to buy inspirational jewelry, or to donate so she can buy more bells, visit projectbell.org.

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