Written by Dorit Carmel Friday, 07 May 2010 00:00
On Tuesday, March 16, Woodbury Jewish Center was the venue for “Larger than Life”, a benefit gala event, where a vast group of good hearted Long Island friends and neighbors gathered to help children battling cancer and to honor advisory board member Albert Nassim and his wife, Janet.
“Larger than Life” is a one-of-a-kind nonprofit organization founded in Israel 10 years ago by a group of parents of children with cancer, out of their knowledge and understanding as well as their awareness of the many difficulties that children with cancer and their families face daily. It aims to improve the welfare and quality of life of children with cancer, as well as their families, regardless of faith, race, or gender.
Childhood cancer is a constant battle and an incredible burden for the families supporting sick children. These kids are often happy and playful, and want to do normal kid things; being in the hospital for prolonged periods is both boring and isolating for them. Though they get the best treatment, “Larger than Life” founders realized there was still much to be done to make life better for kids during treatments and to make life easier for the people supporting them.
“Larger than Life” volunteers, supporters, and a variety of professionals strive to build new memories, as well as to provide entertainment, education, day-to-day support, a hospice volunteer program and support services and financial support for medication. They offer a wide variety of entertainment, which includes lunch music, computer and activity rooms in the hospitals, annual fun-filled activities, a Purim train, summer camp, dream trips to Disneyworld and elsewhere, Moms’ fun days and much more, all with one goal: to ease pain and brighten a day.
Hundreds of supporters gathered to be a part of this gala event, providing funding and a generous hand to the “Larger than Life” groundwork. A scrumptious cocktail hour welcomed the guests, with waiters offering delicate appetizers and exotic drinks. It was a time to meet and greet and enjoy the fabulous atmosphere while reviewing the art pieces that comprised a silence auction.
As the bell rang guests were welcomed in to the ballroom, tables in white dressed with hydrangeas and candles in a breathtaking romantic setting. Executive Director Netta Nathaniel, who had a big role in the success of the evening, opened with a few welcoming words to the guests and recognition to the board. She then introduced the Israeli Ambassador Gavriellah Shalev who acknowledged the supporters and offered a story with a message about the importance of giving to others, and how it can earn the giver joy and satisfaction.
Shahin Halili, president of Baith-Hadassah introduced the evening’s honoree Albert Nassim, admiring his generosity and care. Nassim was born in Teheran to an Iraqi family that in the early 1900s immigrated to Iran from Baghdad. He graduated from The American School in Teheran, then opened his own business representing various corporations and with much success; he and his remarkable wife Janet raised three children. Nassim thanked the board for his nomination and accepted a plaque of appreciation to the applause of the guests. Albert and Janet’s granddaughters read a speech of admiration to their grandfather and asked the guests to pledge generously to the organization.
Avi Cohen, chairman of “Larger than Life” was introduced by his daughter Din who acknowledged his work and devotion. Cohen explained briefly the organization’s goals and achievements and how important it is to help in any way possible. He stated that the kids are true heroes and he hoped that this would inspire the guests to open their hearts and donate generously.
A short video presentation of life stories from sick children and their families was meaningful and emotional. It was followed by an appearance by Eden, a cancer patient, who flew in from Israel for the Disney dream trip. A painful journey battling cancer, being in remission, and relapsing put a strain on her and her family. She expressed her deep thanks for the trip to the U.S. and Disney and for having the chance to tell her story. She is a courageous, inspiring, and beautiful young girl.
The story of Roi Gilat and his amazing talent captured the entire room. Roi an autistic boy diagnosed with cancer when he was just a baby, with doctors predicting death in the very near future. The strength of this miraculous boy and his family’s support are evident in the fact that today he is 13 years old, and has celebrated his Bar Mitzvah with pride. Blessed with an amazing talent for music, Roy, with the help of his Mom, climbed to the stage, sang and played the keyboard to the cheers of the guests applauding and singing with him.
With much emotion from the Israeli and American Jewish crowd, the very successful, beloved, and famous singer Rita was invited to the stage while the guests stood to cheer and applaud her. She started with her song Shvil Habricha (“Exit Way”) which initially bought her fame at the 1986 Pre-Eurovision Song Contest, becoming a hit and opening the door for a successful career. Rita, a family-oriented, humble, and poignant singer had a strong presence on stage bursting into guests’ hearts with her movements and angelic voice. She told some life stories between songs and captivated the audience; they sang with her, cheered, and danced out of their chairs for their beloved singer. With her kind heart she invited the two kids, Eden and Roi to sing with her, granting them another wish. She took her time to share herself with the privileged guests and the kids, who were overwhelmed with her presence and shower of love.
It was an evening to remember, in which morals and values and strong ideology were invested. As Albert Einstein stated “The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.” There is nothing like the feeling of giving without the other side knowing and needing to repay you.
“Larger than Life” holds annual events on Long Island and would love to see the community join. For further information, visit www.largerthanlifeusa.org.