Bergenfield—A parent of a chronically ill or disabled child or the child himself might view an all-expense paid, week-long luxury vacation as just an impossible dream. But Tziporah Wasserman of Bergenfield is working with Kids of Courage to actually make this dream a reality.
Kids of Courage was created to enable sick children and their families to experience some respite from their difficult lives by granting the children the opportunity to experience a flight to a luxurious vacation spot for a fully paid nine-day vacation. At the same time, the participants are able to bond with others in similar medical circumstances and to share their experiences while forming new friendships. The counselors, medical staff, therapists and administrative help associated with Kids of Courage, are all volunteers, so private funds are needed to raise the money for medically equipped planes that are turned into flying hospitals and for lodging at five star hotels stocked with medical equipment as well as for the catered meals and amusement park admission.
The counselor/camper ratio on these dream trips is one or two counselors per child, with each child getting personal attention and care by volunteers specially trained by co-founder and NYU Medical School professor, Dr. Stuart Ditchek. Over the past several years the group has visited Orlando, Los Angeles and California and has taken winter adaptive skiing trips to Vermont.
Campers who enjoy Kids of Courage services range in age from 5 years old to the age of 24. Over 100 campers with life threatening illnesses visit theme parks, participate in outdoor activities, attend concerts, meet celebrities and attempt actions they had hitherto thought impossible. Surprisingly, as these children participate in adventures that other children might take for granted, their health improves. Dr. Ditchek maintains that these fun-filled weeks have a therapeutic effect, as improved moods naturally lead to improvement in one’s immune system.
Naturally, the cost of arranging all of these trips is staggering. Just this past year’s trip to Orlando cost in the area of $800,000. It is only thanks to the dedication of selfless volunteers like Tziporah Wasserman, who are gearing up to participate in Marathon Bahama on January 19 that these vacations will continue. She is the granddaughter of Calvin and Tzippy Soled, pioneer builders of the Teaneck Jewish community. After a relaxing weekend in a Bahama resort, over 100 runners—who have raised a minimum of $3,600.00 each—will race together to fund Kids of Courage programs throughout the year. There will also be 10 campers in wheelchairs aided by volunteers, who will run a half- race of 13.1 miles.
Tziporah, a special education teacher in Dumont, became interested in this wonderful organization after hearing about its work from some friends. She then spent a rewarding week last summer as a counselor on the Orlando trip. Tziporah, like so many of her co-counselors, still keeps in touch with her campers and attends Shabbatonim and other functions with them, although camp is long over. Now, Tziporah hopes to realize her goal of raising the $3,600 so that she can participate in the upcoming marathon.
You can help Tziporah and the Kids of Courage by sending checks made out to Kids of Courage to her home at 85 Wilbur Avenue, Bergenfield, N.J. 07621, or going online to her profile at http://race 4 courage.org/ race/716-tziporah-wasserman/profile. Help Tziporah realize her desire to “make dreams come true and. turn into reality,” as Kids of Courage campers experience joy and exhilaration for a special week of their lives.
By Estelle Glass