Fifty Jewish kids with cancer spent a few days in Orlando, Fla., last week under the auspices of Brooklyn-based Ohr Meir (ohrmeir.org), an 18-year-old organization named for Meir Friedman, a child who lost his life to leukemia. Ohr is Hebrew for “light.”
But last week’s trip could be called Ohr Mickey. As in Mickey Mouse.
During a high-energy, all-expenses-paid vacation, the children from all over the United States and Canada hobnobbed with Mickey and fellow come-to-life cartoon characters at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, and also visited three other area amusement parks — Sea World, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
“The trip, from start to finish, is truly magical,” says Ari Friedman, who, with his wife Idy, founded Ohr Meir. “With a one-to-one ratio of counselor to child, the children are free to be children again, without the cloud of worry that has become their daily companion.”
A full retinue — The “Ohr Meir Crew” — of volunteer physicians, nurses and EMTs accompanied the group.
The children, who got a digital camera as a gift when they arrived in Orlando, and a photo album at the end of the trip, went on shopping expeditions, took part in daily face-painting, and slept each night in their own wing of a hotel on Disney linen, theirs to keep afterwards.
Shy kids came out of their shells on the trip, hugging Mickey and engaging in karaoke.
“When we see the twinkle return to a child’s eye, we know that a reinvigorated spirit is more powerful than any medicine or treatment, Ari Friedman says.
“Medicine is not just about pills and chemotherapy,” Idy Friedman says. “It’s about having a healthy mind in a healthy body.”