A new generation of girls fighting cancer marched over the Brooklyn Bridge in a celebration of life, joy, and hope.
The first March of Hope took place in 2010. This year, 400 campers, counselors, senior and medical staff (including a fully staffed ambulance that accompanied the group to New York City for the day walked from Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn to City Hall.
It was an amazing scene as girls sang and danced their way across the bridge. Those who could not walk were pushed in their wheelchairs by counselors and friends. Bald heads peaked out from under Camp Simcha baseball caps. Pedestrians stopped their commute across the bridge to watch, cheer and take photos. When they reached the second of the two supporting towers, they released brightly colored balloons into the evening sky.
“”When I look up and see the sky, I can see that it doesn’t matter how high the buildings or the trees, the sky is still higher. When you let go of your balloons, there won’t be any obstacles between them and the sky. I hope that’s the way your life will be, free of any more obstacles,” Rivky Schwartz, the girls’ head counselor, said. “Every single one of you is fighting her own battles. The reason we are here doing this together is to show that we are stronger together.”
The girls were just about to let go when a camper asked Rivky for the microphone. With tears in her eyes and a tremor in her voice, she addressed her friends.
“I wasn’t going to be here. I wasn’t going to come to Camp Simcha. I was going to go on the helicopter and then go home. But every day has been tops, one better than the next. I feel blessed to be here. I can’t believe how lucky I am. I feel like the person I was two years ago before I got sick. I feel healthy.
“I don’t think that I’ve been cursed (by cancer). I am getting better every day, and I know that I will be better. Death is afraid of us. We’re here. We’re strong. We’re surviving. And we are going to come back and share our story.”
Chai Lifeline executive vice president Rabbi Simcha Scholar said he was overwhelmed by the strength and purity in the girls’ responses, but not surprised. “The power of Camp Simcha is that it takes children out of the cancer mindset and helps them see the possibilities of their lives. Hospitals are places where their bodies can be healed. Camp Simcha is a place where their spirits can heal.”