Hi, Rafi Bienenstock here. I’ve been a volunteer with Chai Lifeline Toronto now for three years. Throughout my years volunteering I feel like I have seen the immediate effect of Chai Lifeline from the front lines. From being at the office in Toronto, putting away box after box of donations, to dancing with all the amazing Chai warriors in Camp Simcha, I’ve seen Chai Lifeline do the impossible everywhere.
Approximately 4 years ago the Chai Lifeline Niagara trip came to Toronto. My family hosted a few of the staff members over Shabbos and naturally, we started shmuzing about Chai Lifeline. They got me really interested in seeing what it’s all about, so that Saturday night I joined the guys at a pool party. Needless to say I had an amazing time and I realized then and there I wanted as much to do with Chai Lifeline as possible.
The summer after grade 11, I became an official Chai Lifeline volunteer. Almost every day I was asked to do something, whether to do a meal delivery or go down to Sick Kids Hospital and just spend time with a patient. The looks I got when walking into their room carrying toys from the office or a meal from Tov Li was priceless.
That same summer I did the Bike4Chai. For anyone who doesn’t know what that is, check YouTube because any explanation I could give will be underselling it. Finally hitting the finish line and seeing the hundreds of kids dancing in their wheelchairs and smiling at me was one of the craziest feelings I’ve ever felt. That is, until I became a counsellor at Camp Simcha.
One memory from Camp Simcha that seems to be my strongest one was arrival day second session. One of the busses coming into camp was delayed, so everyone had already gone into the auditorium for the opening day show. By the time that last bus arrived it had started pouring rain and nobody was in the mood to be outside after the whole day of dancing and going crazy. But when that bus rolled up to camp, and those kids were arriving hours after the whole welcome party was over, there we were. Almost every single staff member was singing and dancing and acting as if they had just woken up from a power nap, when really they just finished 10 hours of constant rave. Nobody cared that it was freezing cold and pouring rain or that a few minutes ago they were too tired to stand. They wanted the kids to have the best time of their lives, and that was only the first day.
Now I am in yeshiva in Israel and still doing whatever I can for Chai Lifeline. They have a branch in Israel called Chaiyainu and I volunteer for that while I’m here. Anywhere you go there are always people who need help and Chai Lifeline is always there to give it.
This summer while I was home I decided what better way to spend my days than volunteering full time for Chai Lifeline. I have a newfound respect for every one of the staff members there. At all times of the day they are running around doing anything and everything they can to help as many people as possible. No matter how many volunteers Chai Lifeline has, nothing could get done without the amazing team we have in Toronto to guide us.
I just want to say, thanks so much for everything you guys do and allowing me to be a part of something so great.