Blog  NFTY-STR: Mitzvah Week

NFTY-STR: Mitzvah Week

By Noah Brockman and Jordan Brown, NFTY-STR Members

What did you do for NFTY Mitzvah day?   When we arrived to Fort Wilderness for our weekend camping and mitzvah trip, there was a sense of competition. It wasn’t overpowering, but it was light teasing about better programming, fund raising, membership etc.  After all, we are supposed to be rivals right? For the most part, during the beginning of the trip, almost everyone interacted only within their TYG, but the Friday night Shabbat service changed the whole feeling of the trip. The Barachu is the introduction of the service in which you inform g-d you are ready to pray. This was the first real chance that we came together as one community and were ready to make a difference. There were 5 temples that participated in the weekend; 65 reform and conservative teens, 3 full time youth professionals, 3 youth group advisors, 2 rabbis, and countless parent volunteers and chaperones. While as Jewish teens we connected, our friendships were only made stronger by our experience at Give Kids the World.

Give Kids the World Village is a resort that gives terminally ill children a free trip to the Orlando area, allowing them to visit theme parks and just to take a break from the stressful and chaotic days that subjugate them daily. Physicians and other medical professionals are on resort property to enable the children to receive their daily treatments if necessary and to make everyone as comfortable as possible during their stay families live in large villas that are handicap accessible.  The 65 teens that traveled to Give Kids the World volunteered for the weekend. GKTW is run with only 4 full time staff members and about 200 volunteers per day.  We were the lucky ones who got to participate and help make a difference in the lives of the families who are affected by a childhood disease.   The happiness and joy from just a two-minute horseback ride or spin on the carousel is remarkable. The smiles we saw from something as simple as making a child an ice cream sundae for breakfast will never be forgotten.  Give Kids the World Village is an amazing place for these families, but it is the volunteers and donors that make it all happen.

This week is NFTY Mitzvah Week, and as a community we were lucky to make a difference in the lives of over 500 visitors to Give Kids the World. The teens and chaperones on the trip came together to provide an amazing experience for these suffering children. We unified as one group to give these amazing children a vacation that they will remember for the rest of their lives. Gratitude is the act of being thankful and giving back for what you have already. While the families that we were able to help were kind and appreciative of what we were doing as volunteers, it was us that felt the most gratitude for being able to have an impact on these children and brighten their lives, often cut too short.  We didn’t need to post on Facebook or twitter saying; #givingkidstheworld #lookatme #imagoodperson. We just needed to be present, to truly Give Kids the World. This was our mitzvah, our way of giving back for all the goodness that we have in our lives. We made a difference this weekend, what did you do?

Participants were from Temple Beth El of Boca Raton, Congregation Bnai Israel of Boca Raton, Temple Bnai Israel of Clearwater, Temple Beth Am of Tampa, and Congregation Kol Ami of Tampa.