July 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

OHEL Supports Jewish Youth One Smile at a Time

(Courtesy of OHEL) The Smile Club is a groundbreaking, smile-inducing initiative designed to elevate the lives of the other heroes facing the current COVID-19 pandemic––the children. This program was developed and customized by OHEL’s children’s services department in collaboration with Sara Younger, owner of Summer Playland Entertainment Corp. The program utilizes the evidence-based disaster module, skills for psychological recovery (SPR), and has made great strides in supporting children and professionals in this crisis.

“Just like it is important to support young children’s physical needs, addressing the emotional health of a child during the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial,” said Tzivy Reiter, OHEL’s director of children’s services. Children often lack the tools in their emotional toolbox to adjust to this new “shelter in place” existence. OHEL recognized the need to develop a safe, smiling space for children to be as free as they would on the school playground.

A team of licensed OHEL mental health professionals moderate this innovative program while Sara Younger, a tutu-wearing, charismatic motivator, facilitates innovative programming. Her mission is to make the world a happier, more colorful and more loving place one life at a time––a vision that aligns perfectly with OHEL’s commitment to protecting and strengthening individuals and families.

Picture a screen of smiling young faces experiencing a virtual playground, only being asked to laugh, dance, stretch and virtually connect with other children. With two cohorts already in place, preschool (ages 3 to 5), elementary (ages 6 to 11) and a third planned program for middle school students coming soon, this weekly program helps children develop critical emotion regulation and problem solving skills.

Remaining happy and strong in this health crisis is a major challenge for children––they miss their friends, freedom and the structure they once knew. This program is resilience building in disguise and serves as yet another resource in OHEL’s arsenal to support communal needs at this critical time. To date, hundreds of children have participated in each of the sessions, and OHEL is now extending the program through June. It is also expanding the program to include Smile Club Junior, which will provide programming for preschoolers.

There is no cost for children to join the Smile Club. The sky has always been the limit at OHEL and as the pandemic evolves, along with the diverse needs of clients (new and existing), OHEL will lend a smile, a helping hand and a strong arm of support at all times.

If you would like to learn more about the OHEL Smile Club please visit www.ohelfamily/COVID19/smileclub. If you or someone you know can benefit from OHEL’s many supportive services during this challenging time, please visit www.ohelfamily.org/covid19 or call 800-603-OHEL.

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