The KHK WALK ‘N ROLL to benefit Children's Specialized Hospital
One of the first Walk ‘N Roll events took place at the Jersey Gardens Mall. Hundreds of teens, kids and adults gathered at the Mall for this very special event that was planned to help the occupational therapy programs at Children’s Specialized Hospital.
Children’s Specialized held a special place in Mischa’s heart since he spent four months there after his year long hospitalization in 1997. As the largest pediatric rehabilitation hospital in the country Children’s Specialized offers an excellent occupational therapy program that helps a kid get ready to reenter the world after an illness or injury has shattered his or her life.
This Walk ‘N Roll was hosted by popular radio DJ, John Bell of Z100’s Z Morning Zoo and the Z100 Party Patrol. Besides the 2-mile walk, the event featured a fashion show featuring Miss Latina New Jersey and Miss Teen Latina New Jersey plus benefit concerts by an extraordinary local New Jersey high school jazz band and a very special performance by Daniel McBride, 13 Hands.
The Kids Helping Kids volunteers worked for months before the event recruiting volunteers to walk, getting people to pledge donation money, organizing jobs, trying to drum up support and contributions, all culminating in a fun filled day that far exceeded everyone’s expectations.
“Before Children’s Specialized, people never saw me as a person,” one sweet little girl summed it up in one simple sentence as she walked determinedly on her hot pink crutches with a group of new friends."
“The first time I slipped into my sled and slid across the ice, I was free.” That’s the enthusiastic way 16-year-old Lou Riccardi of Nutley NJ described his feelings about sled hockey. “We never treated him any differently then our other two boys,” said his mother, Jane. Although Lou spends his time in a wheelchair, he does not see himself as “handicapped.” Sled Hockey is one of the reasons a teen like Lou can have the enthusiasm for life that he does. And Mischa knew that’s what would happen.
In one of our past KHK newsletters, Mischa wrote with a lot of passion about sled hockey:
“Sled hockey is a sport that was designed in Scandinavia for handicapped people to play ice hockey. One sits on a sled that has ice skates on the bottom while holding small hockey sticks in each hand, which have serrated metal edges used to push off the ice much like ski poles.
As I mentioned in a previous newsletter, I was setting up a sled hockey game involving both handicapped and able-bodied kids. Now that the event has taken place, I’m happy to say everyone who participated enjoyed themselves immensely. In fact the NYU staff that funded the game enjoyed it so much they want to make it an annual event.
Seeing this game first hand convinced me that having more of these games would help us continue to fulfill our mission. Sled Hockey brings the handicapped and able-bodied worlds together. It’s a fun and healthy activity that almost anyone can do. Therefore, we have purchased sleds for able-bodied volunteers to use at future sled hockey events. Organizing such events will be one of our new areas of focus.
Sled Hockey does something unique. At Kids Helping Kids we talk a lot about helping handicapped kids by providing them with a way to reenter and stay connected to the world. Usually that means funding a wheelchair or a ramp and even though these things are necessary and important items, they still are symbols of illness and disability.
When you become disabled you enter a world that has many new limitations. These limitations can keep you out of your familiar surroundings and soon leave you alone and unable to do the activities you used to perform alongside other people. For me personally, I was unable to walk and therefore I could not get around quickly and do things I wanted to do like hang out with my friends or play soccer.
Sled hockey can bring everyone together and can fill that empty gap between the physically able and disabled worlds. When you see a person playing sled hockey it is not so easy to tell a handicapped person from an able bodied one because there is no disability barrier present, everyone uses the same form of mobility to play and that’s truly part of being connected. That is why this is so powerful and so important for us to bring this sport to as many kids as we can. And let’s not forget what is maybe the best part of Sled Hockey… It brings everyone together and everyone has fun.”
When Mischa began to lose his strength at the end of 2004, he kept playing because he said he felt best on the ice. Mischa died on February 1, 2005, but the game didn’t just continue, it got even more popular and carried on Mischa’s dream of a tough competitive sport where the kids can’t tell the difference between the able and disabled players and had fun!
“The sled hockey events have been a “total success!” enthused Coach Al Graul - the team raised thousands of dollars. The Devils played the Elizabeth/Kearny Firefighters at the Union Sports Arena, who generously donated the ice. The kids, who “creamed the firefighters” according to one spectator, had a wonderful time competing with the adults. One volunteer stated, “I cannot express the feelings that came over me last night after having a perfect evening for such a worthy cause...it surpassed all of my expectations.”
The KHK Concert
I have known of Kids Helping Kids since I attended grade school with its founder, Mischa Zimmermann. I have always greatly admired the mission, and wished that I could do something to raise funds and increase awareness.
Recently I started working at Steffles Productions in New York City. One of the company’s artists, William Hart Strecker, came to the owner, Stefanie Robyn Fink, and expressed the desire to use his musical talents to become involved with a children’s charity. Stefanie and I decided to put together a benefit concert. She asked me if I knew of any children’s charities, and I knew that we had to choose Kids Helping Kids. Both Stefanie and I were able to book the artists and venue, secure sponsor commitments, and create the makings of a great evening.
The benefit concert for Kids Helping Kids took place at The Triad in New York City. The William Hart Strecker Band played two great sets, and we were extremely excited to have John Lardieri as our special acoustic opener. Dylan’s Candy Bar, the NY/NJ MetroStars, the Patriots, The Whiteweld Foundation, The Banyan Tree, and the Ferrara Family were so generous with their donations and crucial to the success of the evening. The proceeds were given to Kids Helping Kids and have been used to benefit Children’s Specialized Hospital. It was an honor to coordinate the event, and even more exciting to see some of Mischa's (and my) former classmates at the benefit!
After the benefit concert I realized how important Kids Helping Kids had become to me, and that I didn’t want my involvement with the group to end. I have continued to volunteer and have had the privilege of acting as a representative for the organization. I thoroughly enjoy speaking at events and feel a strong commitment to helping spread the word about Kids Helping Kids. I look forward to planning another benefit concert, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for this special organization!
A Childrens Theater Hospital for Kids in the Hospital
Harry Potter in the Park
Kids Helping Kids volunteers from Montclair presented a unique event in the Mischa Drucker Zimmermann Memorial Chess Park in Watchung Park.
It was a Harry Potter extravaganza!! Supported by the local merchants, Kids Helping Kids volunteers, Harry Potter enthusiasts, and friends, gathered at the site for a series of events the volunteers invented:
Readings from the Harry Potter Book Series; our very own "Wizard's Chess," in honor of Mischa's passion for the game, and inspired by the mystical chess played in the books. Wizard’s Chess was played on a giant chessboard where the children “played” with “human” chess pieces!
Readings were performed by Malika Quemerais and Aneesah Dambreville, a young performing artist from NY. It was amazing to see Kids Helping Kids in action.
Something Good in the World Inc.
It’s never too early to start doing something good in the world. The K/1 class of the Garden Road School (owned by the non-profit organization, Something Good in the World Inc.) learned about Kids Helping Kids and decided to create a lemonade stand to sell three kinds of lemonade and cookies to benefit KHK.
Barbara Sarbin, President of Something Good in the World told us, “The children said that they felt it was important to try to help others, not just themselves, and they very much liked the idea of contributing towards a wheelchair or a ramp for a child’s home.” She went on, “Today, the Kindergartners were still so full of enthusiasm for children with these special needs that they built fairy houses with ramps for the “handicapped fairies. It was really quite something to see.”
The National Association of Social Workers Conference
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