If you’ve been following Chai Lifeline through the social distancing measures brought on by COVID-19, you know the Chai Toy Tank. But you don’t know the story and the people behind it. Meet Avi, celebrating 10 years of good health by bringing the Toy Tank to life and the streets of Toronto.
My name is Avi, and I wanted to share a little bit about my life and my personal connection to Chai Lifeline Canada.
In November of 2009, I was horsing around with my brothers and ended up hurting myself. After x-rays the next day, my doctor saw something strange in the report and sent me for further testing. By December 2009 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The day of my diagnosis Mordi Rothman (Chai Lifeline Canada Executive Director) himself, together with Yummy Schachter , met me at Sick Kids in an attempt to help break the news to me by distracting me with electronics. Within a matter of days, I had a new extended family – the Chai Lifeline family. From the get-go, I was set up with a volunteer, DZ Silver, to hang out with me, distract me and take me on outings like basketball games and restaurants. DZ has remained in my life ever since.
For anyone receiving news that they have cancer, it is unpleasant, now imagine you’re a 15 year old kid. And so the prognosis of chemotherapy and radiation began…
One week every day was chemo in the hospital and one week every day of meds at home. Despite how awful it was for both myself and my family, Chai Lifeline did everything humanly possible to make it as easy and comfortable for me and my family. From setting my siblings up with “big sisters”, to dinners, toys, electronics, and rides to the hospital when my parents were at work. Anything I ever asked of them, without hesitation, it was done. March 15, 2010 was my last day of treatment and I was given the ‘all clear’.
Chai Lifeline has and will always be a part of my life. They stayed involved even in remission and continued to help in any way they could. I even had the opportunity to visit Camp Simcha, their 2 week overnight camp, which was a great experience!
Words can’t describe how grateful I am to Chai Lifeline – staff and volunteers. I feel like I was one of their toughest clients, but they stood by me, and for that, the only way I can thank them is by giving back.
Once I was old enough, I signed up as a volunteer and I started helping in any way that I could. Impossible tasks became tasks I managed to fulfill. From dropping food off at an airstrip for a family rushing their child to another country for emergency treatment, to the mundane of picking up chair and table donations.
On March 15th 2020, I celebrated 10 years of being cancer free and I wanted to do something significant for Chai Lifeline. After COVID-19 hit, I reached out to Mordi to see if there was anything I could do. At first Mordi was hesitant, but then he shared this idea he had. A Toy Tank delivering happiness and toys to our Toronto community – but he didn’t have the tank. My business’s trailer, Perfect Locksmiths Inc, which wasn’t in use at the time, was wrapped within a couple of days and we started our first delivery in the beginning of April. Twice a week the Chai Toy Tank is on the road and we drive around town delivering toys and sharing joy.
It brings me immense happiness to give back to those who helped me, and seeing the smiles on the kids faces when we pull up, makes this pandemic all that much more bearable.
Avi is sharing his story today, Tuesday, May 5th, for two reasons. First of all, it’s Tuesday and for him and many children in our city, that means Toy Tank Delivery Day. But more than that, today is #GivingTuesdayNow – a call to action to support the organizations in our community that support those among us who need it the most. As you now know, Avi knows first-hand, the impact of Chai Lifeline on a child with an illness and their entire family. If you are able to make a donation today, it is being doubled to make twice the difference.
You can double your donation today here: https://chailifelinecanada.org/givingtuesday/
You can learn more about the Chai Toy Tank here: www.chaitoytank.com