It’s the Chai Birthday for the Hartman Family Foundation Wish at the Wall, Chai Lifeline’s celebration of life for teens who have either completed treatment for cancer or who are living with serious chronic illnesses or disabilities.
This year Wish at the Wall will bring 14 chronically ill teens to Israel. Each participant is invited to share the journey with a parent.
Wish-at-the-Wallers are on the go every day, all day. They visit Masada and swim in the Dead Sea. They ride camels. They go up and down the hills of Jerusalem and into the Galilee. Wheelchairs, walkers, and even respirators do not stop them.
"This is an incredible experience on so many levels," said Rabbi Shlomo Crandall, director of the Midwest region. "The medical needs of these teens, all of whom have attended Camp Simcha Special, are very complex. This would be a very difficult trip, perhaps impossible, to make on their own."
The group also spends time at many of the holiest spots in the world, including the Kotel, Kever Rachel (Rachel’s Tomb) and the old city of Safed. They spend Shabbat in Jerusalem. A teen on a previous Wish at the Wall noted that while the physical challenges may be great, so are the spiritual rewards of the excursion.
To Rabbi Crandall, the real importance of the program is not what the group sees, but the interactions among the groups of parents and teens, and among each parent-teen duo.
"When children have complex medical situations, parents are forced to be caregivers as well as parents. At a point in their lives when teens need to be independent, they may not be able to take care of all their medical needs. Wish at the Wall helps parents see the possibilities for their children. In many cases, it changes the entire dynamic of the relationship and sets the stage for greater independence and actualization in the future."
We are grateful to the Hartman Family, whose foresight and initial support made the trip possible, and whose foundation continues to take the lead on this and other programs in the Midwest.
Check out Wish at the Wall daily here.