By Rabbi Jody Cook, Camper Care Coordinator
Recently, Rabbis Phyllis and Michael Sommer shared the news that their 6 year old son, Sammy, was diagnosed with Leukemia. Phyllis and Michael, along with their four children, live in the suburbs of Chicago, are involved in the Reform Jewish community, attend OSRUI (another URJ camp) each summer, and understand the impact of social media. When trying to help Sammy understand just how many people care about his wellbeing, they posted a brilliant idea on Facebook. They asked people to take pictures wearing super hero apparel which, once posted, would be shared with their Superman Sam.
Phyllis has been a good friend of mine since childhood, so I heard about hear idea the old fashioned way – through a phone conversation. David Berkman knows the Sommer family through connections in the URJ – he saw the idea on Facebook. Briana discovered the project because of mutual friends postings on facebook and blogs. It was clear that as a staff and as a URJ Camp, Kalsman would certainly show their support of Sam.
During staff week, we posed with a Superman sign (beautifully made by one of our Art Specialists, Leah Sacks). I think that we are one of the biggest groups to post a picture. We added about 60 people to countless others who have shown their support of Sam. We are hoping to use this sign throughout the summer, with campers, as we teach them the Jewish value of bikkur cholim or visiting the sick. Sammy, who is missing camp this summer, will certainly feel what is so amazing about being at camp – kehilla kedosha (sacred community), chesed (kindness), reform Jewish identity, and friendship.
We all hope and pray that Sammy’s treatment will be successful and as tolerable as possible. We also know that blood transfusions, bone marrow transplates and platelets are common when treating various medical conditions. During staff week, we had an opportunity to see a video made by Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry. We heard about the experience of a local woman who donated marrow five years ago, and many of the staff were inspired to swab the insides of their cheeks to be tested and put on the bone marrow registry. We made the materials available to parents who were dropping off kids on opening day and are pleased that even more people felt compelled to be placed on the registry. We will continue to run the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry swabbing at each of our opening days. After hearing the video and listening to the speaker, swabbing a cheek and donating marrow seem like easy things to do if they can save the lives of others.
Please know that you can join Camp Kalsman in both of the efforts described above. Superman Sam loves to hear about people around the world and in different states who know about him (he feels like a superstar more than a super hero!) Read and follow his story here. If you are interested in being put on the bone marrow registry, you can organize a drive or find a drive near you at the Gift of Life website.
May we all be blessed with continued health and happiness, and may we have the strength to help those who are in need of healing.