Enhancing lives, one seat at a time. That’s the motto of the non-profit organization called Sharing Seats. According to Noah Falkenstein, Sharing Seats’ Executive Director, “Our goal at Sharing Seats is to provide sick and disadvantaged children and their families with the unique opportunity to experience the excitement of attending a concert, play or sporting event. We believe that even the briefest window of time should be utilized to create ‘forever moments’ of happiness. When facing the realities of a life marked by debilitating illness or harsh daily struggles, the opportunity of spending a few hours at an event could be a meaningful and therapeutic experience.”
The inspiration for this genius idea started with the organization’s founder Yoni Greenstein. Greenstein had friends who were not using concert tickets or season tickets to different sporting events due to Shabbos, Yom Tov or just simply unexpected conflicts. Recognizing that when a family has a sick child, a break for a few hours is an incredible gift, he started donating these tickets to organizations where he volunteered. In his mind it was a win-win. Not only did the tickets not go to waste but he was able to provide families struggling with difficult times a distraction from their burdens.
Through word of mouth people heard about what he was doing and started coming to him. Some because they wanted to donate tickets of their own and some because they knew a family who could benefit from the use of the tickets. As the number of calls, texts and people stopping him in the supermarket grew, Greenstein got together with several partners, including Mike Dube of the educational sports company Dube Zone of Englewood. Once Dube joined Sharing Seats the foundation grew exponentially. His energetic personality and love for helping others allowed Sharing Seats to gain additional notoriety.
What started in New York/New Jersey soon expanded to the tri-state area and now has gone national. Today the foundation receives calls from all across the country. Often it’s families going through difficult times who know about the work Sharing Seats does, but sometimes the calls come from organizations they have given tickets to in the past such as Ohel, Kids of Courage, Chai Lifeline, Ronald McDonald House, You Are Never Alone (YANA) Foundation and numerous Boys and Girls Clubs, to name just a few.
So how does it work? Mainly word of mouth. People contact Sharing Seats to donate their unused tickets. Sometimes they’ll be contacted by a family requesting tickets for a specific date or for a particular event. When that happens, Sharing Seats will email their usual contacts to see if anyone has tickets and they will also post on both Sharing Seats’ and Dube’s Facebook pages. Generally within a short amount of time someone fulfills the request. “If we can’t find someone with tickets sometimes we’ll use the money we’ve raised to buy the tickets ourselves. That’s why we’re always looking for foundations interested in becoming involved and more businesses willing to donate their tickets,” said Falkenstein.
Greenstein told the Jewish Link about another service they are able to offer. Sometimes a potential sponsor knows a family who is struggling and wants to help without embarrassing them. That person can buy tickets and Sharing Seats will give them to the family anonymously. The ability to give someone a short break from reality can be the greatest gift of all.
Donating tickets to Sharing Seats is simple. Donors email event tickets to [email protected] and the tickets are then sent to a worthy recipient. After the event, a tax-deductible receipt, for the face value of the tickets, is emailed to the donor. Generally the recipient writes a thank you and sends a few pictures that the foundation forwards to the ticket donor. Here’s an example of a note written by a family of four who went to a Knicks game: “I want to start by saying that last night’s game was the most incredible experience we’ve ever had. It was a much needed diversion from all the medical procedures our child has had to endure over the past few months. We had an amazing time which words cannot describe and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
On Sunday, August 28, at 12:30 p.m., Sharing Seats will host its Inaugural Benefit Event in a dedicated suite at Yankee Stadium as the New York Yankees play the Baltimore Orioles. The suite will be filled with all-you-can-eat kosher food and unlimited wine and beer. There will also be Yankees hats and great prizes raffled off. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about Sharing Seats and meet the people who run the organization as well as some recipients who have benefitted from it.
Sharing Seats is a 501(c)(3) organization. To learn more about the organization, the event or to donate tickets or make a donation, visit www.sharingseats.org.