February 22, 2024
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February 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Legacy of Evan Levy z”l: Inspiring Others to #SmileThruIt

Englewood—The passing of Evan Levy, an adventurous, playful and dynamic 4-year-old, is an inconceivable tragedy. It seems impossible to turn such tremendous heartache into something positive. However, with the creation of The Smile Challenge, #smilethruit, participants can carry on Evan’s sweet and ever-present smile, and perpetuate his legacy of spreading goodness and joy.

Chana Reichman, Rebbetzin of Englewood’s East Hill Synagogue, where the Levys are members, recalls that “Evan had a magical way to connect with those of all ages. He befriended babies, the elderly and everyone in between. The twinkle in his eye and smile on his face touched everyone’s hearts and even when they thought they were smiling to help him, his smile is what helped everyone else. His biggest smiles were reserved for his brother and sister, Max and Zoey, and his parents, but he was so generous in spreading his smile to everyone he encountered.”

Evan was well known by everyone; children of all ages at The Moriah School, which he attended, as well as firemen, policemen and even ice-cream truck drivers. Reichman explains that “his curious personality animated him to get to know everyone, and everyone’s names, and he would never forget them.” Shortly after Evan passed away from brain cancer, two Moriah students, Rone and Omer Rosen started Kids4Evan, an initiative to spread Evan’s ability to make everyone feel special through days of kindness.

Evan’s mother, Margaret Levy, wanted to add a fun element to Kids4Evan, because, according to Reichman, “[Evan’s] endless energy and determination to enjoy life made every day a fun day. Therefore, Margaret had an idea that Kids4Evan should have a fun component, as well.”

To accomplish this, Margaret, together with Moriah’s Rabbi Yoni Fein, created The Smile Challenge, where people are challenged to smile through something difficult. No one did this better than Evan, who, Rabbi Fein says, “was a boy who always had a smile on his face, no matter what.”

According to Rebbetzin Reichman, “his incredible mother turned every doctor’s visit into a reason to smile instead of a reason to cry, with treats and toys and enthusiasm galore. Evan never felt that he was sick and because of that he never stopped running, doing and exploring. From his hospital bed he would insist on going to play, from a doctor’s visit to an exciting outing and from all the pricks and pokes to the park, the ice cream truck, the police department or picnicking at the boats.”

Reichman maintains that while “there are certainly challenges in life that can’t be smiled through, there are many blessings and many bright sides that we can look for. The power of Evan’s smile spread virally and caused others to smile; in his memory we can all try to add smiles and consider the power of them [on others].”

To take part in The Smile Challenge, people are first challenged with thinking of a task that is normally very uncomfortable or unpleasant, one in which you ordinarily would not smile. Next, participants should record themselves going through with this task while maintaining their smiles. Last, videos and pictures are shared on social media using the hashtags #smilethruit #kids4evan, and five friends should be tagged to repeat the challenge.

While the website kids4evan.org suggests smiling with a lemon in your mouth or while doing homework, people have gotten very creative, putting their own spin on the challenge. A search on Facebook and Instagram for #smilethruit #kids4evan, reveals a mom smiling while icing a broken nose, kids smiling while eating broccoli, and a family smiling despite having squirrels in their fireplace. There are pictures of dads and kids smiling at the dentist, and marathoners smiling while running in intense heat.

This initiative has extended far beyond Evan’s Englewood and Moriah communities, as it speaks to anyone who understands the value of sharing a smile. Recently, the Maccabeats posted a picture of themselves smiling at the airport, despite waking up for an early-morning flight only to have it delayed because of a flat tire. A few days later, Mayim Bialik, of The Big Bang Theory, posted a picture of herself smiling through her sadness on her father’s one-year yahrtzeit.

Jennifer Wasserman, a Moriah parent and resident of Englewood, posted the picture of herself icing her broken nose. She found that “smiling through the pain…gave me the strength to be positive and grateful for all I have. Evan’s ability to smile no matter what the circumstance was truly amazing and was an inspiration to our entire community. I hope I was able to perpetuate his legacy by smiling through an uncomfortable experience and can’t wait to see how others do the same.”

Rabbi Fein notes that “we are all so happy to see #smilethruit spreading across the world and more importantly to see people spread positivity. I can’t think of a better way to honor Evan’s memory.”

This outpouring of support is incredibly meaningful to Evan’s family. Evan’s aunt, Emily Lichtman, says “to see that Evan’s smile has touched the lives of our friends and even now celebrities and strangers, shows just how much smiles can spread when inspired by the most infectious smile out there, that of my incredibly awesome nephew, Evan Levy. We are beyond excited that kindness and smiles continue to spread in his memory and thank all of those who continue to make his memory a blessing.”

Reichman adds, “Evan’s parents are heroic angels who went above and beyond to help Evan smile through his darkest days. It is so meaningful to them to see others smiling and [to see] Evan’s footprint of goodness continue to make a mark on so many.”

Evan has inspired other local campaigns as well. On May 22, MB Klyman of Underground Training in Tenafly will sponsor a powerlifting meet with monies raised going to The Evan Levy Foundation. For more information, please contact him at [email protected]

For more information about The Smile Challenge, The Evan Levy Foundation, or Kids4Evan days of kindness, please visit www.Kids4Evan.org.

By Robin Tare

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