April 23, 2024
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April 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Eitan’s Hope for Children Offers Unique Gifts to Those with Chronic and Life-Threatening Illnesses

Teaneck—For nearly 12 years something wonderful has been taking place on various floors in Hackensack University Medical Cent­er, and in more recent years, Montefiore Med­ical Center in the Bronx—as well as in oth­er children’s hospitals or homes as far away as Australia. In rooms of children and young adults with chronic or life-threatening illness­es, just when they need it the most, decora­tions appear on walls, nightstands, or beds in their favorite colors and themes. Or, a bas­ket awaits their arrival for a transplant or be­fore a difficult procedure, in which they find items specifically tailored to their individual passions, wishes, or needs. The decorations and the baskets may be brought into the pa­tient’s rooms by the social worker or child life specialist, but the angel in the wings making all of this happen is Teaneck resident Alona Shapiro.

When her son Eitan died in 2002, Shapiro founded Eitan’s Hope for Children. She want­ed to be able to provide children and young adults with life-threatening illnesses the op­portunity to smile and face their difficult jour­ney the way Eitan was able to do—with digni­ty, courage, and faith.

Eitan was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 15. It was one of the most aggressive of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas. In conjunction with traditional Western medicine, used to de­lay the growth of the tumor, Eitan underwent a significant regimen of integrative medicine, namely energy healing and nutritional coun­seling. Shapiro believes the mind-body con­nection is key to the healing process and is convinced it extended Eitan’s life by nearly three years.

As a result, one of the goals of Eitan’s Hope for Children is to edu­cate people about the value of in­tegrative medicine and to offer financial assistance for specific inte­grative medical treatments.

In past years, the fund offered a variety of other services to help ease the suffering of patients and their families, including offering es­sential items for families in the ICU with no support; supplies for be­reavement carts; musical instru­ments and art supplies for creative arts and musical therapy programs; aromatherapy items and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts for par­ents of ill in-house patients.

Its signature project has al­ways been a Basketful of Smiles. Tai­lored to each patient, these baskets, filled with items that encourage the mind-body connection, are a result of research done via consultations with social workers and child life specialists. Shapiro created a form to fill out that helps her get to know the patients. “I want to know all about them because it helps me tune into the kids,” says Shapiro. The common denominator in the baskets is that all items will make the child or young adult happy. And this helps the healing process since that is how the mind-body con­nection works.

“Each basket is a magnet for healing,” ex­plains Shapiro. “It softens the blows on the newly diagnosed, distracts young ones from fears and painful procedures, and motivates teens to fight the disease harder and young adults to continue setting goals and rees­tablish their identities. As their dreams and wishes are fulfilled, the joy and happiness becomes contagious!”

According to Shapiro, “We concentrate on teenagers and young adults. I wanted to make Eitan as comfortable as possible, and I don’t want other teens to feel like they’re los­ing their identities and becoming statistics. Often, these young adults are ignored and forgotten when it comes to providing them with entertainment or bringing them gifts. They’re not kids, though they’re not quite adults either.”

Shapiro reflects, “I know if Eitan were alive today that we’d be partnering on this mission. His understanding of the value of integrative medicine, nutritional counseling, a positive attitude, and his love for human­ity—especially the young—made this mis­sion a ‘no brainer.’ Eitan was aware of how different he felt before and after his energy healings and the effects herbs and supple­ments had on his body. He beamed when physicians told him they had never seen such a strong heart in a cancer patient or such bravery.

“For me, this mission combines every­thing I’ve done my whole life from love of working with children to the creative projects to love of medicine and especial­ly integrative modes. Seeing the differ­ence it all makes in one life is as incred­ible as it is an eye opener. Each spirit is literally transformed even before a bas­ket is opened. It tells me I must continue on with this mission.”

In commemoration of Eitan’s upcom­ing yahrzeit on Rosh Chodesh Elul, please consider making a donation. Checks can be made out to Eitan’s Hope for Children and sent to: Eitan’s Hope for Children, 39 Monterey Ave., Teaneck, NJ 07666 or do­nations can be made online at http://eit­anshopeforchildren.org/general-donation. html. Eitan’s Hope for Children is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization.

By Sara Kosowsky Gross

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