I didn’t find Chai Lifeline…. Chai Lifeline found me. In different places, by a host of different characters over a period of several years, I heard this name Chai lifeline, mentioned, praised and discussed, without giving much thought to what it even meant.

Until one day a friend of mine, whose daughter is so close, she is a “sister” to my own, mentioned how badly her daughter wanted to be able to go to camp but because of her medications, her mother just did not feel comfortable sending her to a regular overnight camp.

As my friend started asking around, that same name “Chai Lifeline” that I’d heard murmured off the lips of many before her, started coming up again.  This time more loudly. This time it was my friend telling me about Chai Lifeline’s Camp Simcha.

It is now 3 years later, and what can I say…. Chai Lifeline has not only changed the life of my friends daughter who can now go to camp without feeling different, but it changed my life in the process.

My path that lead here was my daughters “sister’s” struggle to find acceptance, however, in the process, I now have many more reasons to call this organization my place, my family and my home.

In my many years of experience in the non-profit sector as a volunteer, employee, advisor and donor, I have never had the privilege of being a part of an organization that helps so many people in such vital and essential ways without a long list of criteria.  If an award was given to the organization with the most HEART Chai Lifeline would win hands down.

The programs and methods of helping at Chai Lifeline are too numerous to list here, but I’d like to bring attention to the program that is closest to me, as it is the program that brought me to Chai Lifeline in the first place…. Camp Simcha.

As a committed volunteer and casino gala co- chair, I was given the opportunity to visit Camp Simcha in upstate New York this summer and see for myself.  I was really touched to see the magic that this program has, receiving stressed and physically challenged children and returning them home as Chai Warriors…. Leaders of courage in our community!

First let me start by saying, the actual grounds of the camp were incredible.  Every room and every corner was created and built with every single attending child’s disabilities in mind.  Next, I’d like you to think Willy Wonka goes to camp.  The impossible becomes possible at Camp Simcha.  With doctors and nurses on call, attendants available to help those with the most severe disabilities, and children free to enjoy activities they never could have dreamed of participating before in such as zip-lining, boating, and swimming.   Let me just say this, smiles and laughter are in abundance, and the relaxed feeling of “we got this” is felt in the confidence of the kids as they experience things they had never before imagined.

I want to mention our upcoming ‘Go All In’ casino gala on November 23rd at the Eglinton Grand.  We are expecting over 400 people in attendance for an incredible night filled with food, fun, drinks and all in an effort to support Chai’s 24 FREE programs in your community.  Tickets are $150… and when you think of the happiness of all the families, especially the children you are helping with this purchase,  it’s really such a small price to pay for so much joy!

Guest Blogger and 2017 Gala Chair Maureen Leshem (Right)  with co-chairs, Nina Benlolo and Albert Benudiz

I’d like to end this testimony by emphasizing what matters most to me, and appeal for your goodwill and generosity.  Please, please, please help us to make a difference again this year by making a pledge to Chai Lifeline Canada.  You do not need to be a millionaire or have endless hours to spare…. all you have to do is care!  Everyday offers an opportunity to affect someone’s life.  If you have something to give, please, give it now!

Sincerely ~ Maureen Leshem


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