Annual Retreat Gives Families Tools to Cope with Illness

febcl3_lThe Annual LH Financial Winter Retreat is often called “the weekend that people wait for all year.” This year’s event, held at the beautiful Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel in Asbury Park, lived up to its reputation.

Chai Lifeline’s professional staff had seen to every detail. Families arrived to find boxes of Shabbos snacks and gifts for their children in their rooms. The children’s program on Friday delivered on its promise of creativity, fun, and sport. The mothers’ spa experience on Friday afternoon set the stage for a weekend both relaxing and stimulating.

“Our goal is to strike the right balance between chizuk, information, peer and professional support, and respite,” said Rabbi Simcha Scholar.

The weekend was graced with the presence of Rav Elya Brudny, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir, whose erudition, wisdom, and compassion touched everyone’s hearts. The Rosh Yeshiva spoke twice during Shabbos and gave his personal counsel to many of the families.

RetreatIn addition to the Rosh Yeshiva, the program featured noted psychologist Dr. David Pelcovitz. Dr. Pelcovitz, who has been the events’ psychologist in residence since it began 25 years ago, is a leading expert in helping parents cope with the emotional trials of pediatric illnesses. Mothers enjoyed the opportunity to hear from Jackie Bitton, a renowned inspiration speaker, teacher, and dean of students at the girls division of YDE Yeshivah in Brooklyn. In addition, Chai Lifeline’s professional staff was also on hand throughout the weekend.

The many sessions for parents gave the event gravitas; the davening, enhanced by the Yedidim Choir, was a source of inspiration. But it was the Shabbos meals, punctuated by the singing and dancing that is a Chai Lifeline tradition, and the joyful melava malka that bonded families together. Fathers and sons joined Chai Lifeline counselors as they snaked through the dining room singing together. Parents and children shared pizza, pasta and ice cream, then danced away the calories on Saturday night, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

As it does every year, the weekend ended all too soon. One father thanked Rabbi Scholar. “We’ve been to weekends where there is so much going on that you forget your child is sick. This Shabbos, I didn’t forget, but you gave me the tools to cope with his illness.”

Annual RetreatA mother whose child sported the short hair that often signals the end of the chemotherapy agreed. “Chai Lifeline has already done so much for us,” said a mother. “This went beyond what I thought it would be. I got so much from listening to the other mothers and being with the families. My daughter hasn’t stopped playing with the other girls since we got here. She won’t stop, no matter how tired she is. It is so wonderful to see that.”

Chai Lifeline is grateful to Jay Podolsky, Stuart Podolsky and the Amsterdam Hospitality Group for their generosity in making the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel our home for the weekend.

See pictures from the Retreat here.

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