My name is Dina Benayon and I am a Case Manager here at Chai Lifeline. I became involved with Chai Lifeline eight years ago, volunteering as a big sister for a teen who was battling a brain tumor. We would meet each Wednesday and do something fun; we’d go bowling, get manicures, go out for dinner; or, when she wasn’t feeling well enough, just stay home and play board games. Through Chai Lifeline, I was able to give her not just a good time but also a sense of security and stability; from our first meeting, I promised her that Chai Lifeline was staying for the ride. We’d be with her for the ups and downs.
Over time, we became very close. We spent an amazing summer together at Camp Simcha, where the staff did everything possible to fulfill my little sister’s dreams. That summer was an incredible experience, but also a very difficult one for us. Shortly after camp ended, three of our bunkmates lost their battle with cancer.
This really got me thinking. Why am I doing this? Why don’t I back out now and protect myself from witnessing such horrific and indescribable pain? I felt bound by my commitment to stay, but inside I was conflicted.
A little while later, we arrived back in camp for a reunion and spent a special weekend together, despite the glaring absence of our 3 bunkmates. At one point during that weekend, I looked around the room, and suddenly I understood: This was a happy place. The smiles around the room were electrifying. This was heaven on earth for children who lived in darkness all year. And I had a choice. I could turn away and leave this job for someone else, or dive in headlong and help bring smiles to brighten those children’s lives.
It’s been eight years, and I never left. I am now a Case Manager with the Chai Lifeline team here in Canada. I have been lucky to work with the most special children and their parents and to form close relationships with them. Every day, I have the honor to try and bring smiles to the faces of the true heroes in our Chai Lifeline family. I see firsthand the difference it makes when our parents are able to make the choice to spend time at home with their child and not worry about the bills; when they get to focus on what really matters and know that a warm meal will show up at the door; when they see their child’s face light up as their greatest wishes come true. But most importantly, I am able to show our families that we are here with them. The promise I made to my little sister all those years ago is one we make to every family, every child: we will be there for the ride, we will be there for the ups and downs. We will fight illness with love.