The day started out with a steady drizzle and overcast skies, but that didn’t put a damper on the spirits exuberant men, women and children boarding the majestic ship for Misameach’s one-of-a-kind Annual Cruise. The singing could be heard from down the block, getting louder and louder as we approached the ship standing ready and waiting at the Liberty state Marina.
Walking up the gangplank and entering the boat, we were immediately enveloped in the joy and the excitement reverberating throughout the boat, as we were greeted by volunteers as if we were family.
The music started before the boat left the marina, as the dance floor took on a life of its own. Families settled in, finding their places at the many gaily decorated tables and enjoying the lavish lunch buffet that seemed to never run out.
And then, with a slight lurch, the boat took to the choppy waters of the Hudson River, as it embarked on its three hour trip, a trip that, since its inception several years ago, has become symbolic of the remarkable experiences created by Misameach for hundreds of sick children and their families.
Somewhere between the Hudson River and the East River, the rains died down and the sun broke through the crowds, as families enjoyed the view out on the decks, taking in the sights of the Statue of Liberty, South Street Seaport and the helipad, and for some of us – the homes of some of our favorite people on the Lower East Side of Manhattan!
Inside the ship, the Ruach never abated, thanks to the musical talents of the legendary Avraham Fried, Shimi Engel and Eli Marcus, accompanied by the Harmony Band and the most leibidig volunteers known to mankind.
Never seeming to tire, the volunteers danced the cruise away, sweeping children into the lively circles and watching the smiles transform their faces as they felt the warmth and the love and the joy of their Misameach family.
While the ground level was turned into a concert hall, the second floor was home to a child’s wonderland. Aside for the food, a whole host of games and activities entertained the children for the duration of the cruise. Crafts, face painting, cotton candy and more were supervised by dedicated volunteers who naturally and gracefully made every child feel special.
Scooter the Schnitzel Man created balloon sculptures according to every child’s specification, while keeping them laughing, dancing and singing as they waited.
Scooter also performed a hilarious show, with his unique blend of magic and comedy – okay, mostly comedy – that had children and adults laughing unabashedly.
One of the highlights of the cruise was the opportunity to pay tribute to a man who had been a lifesaving force for so many present, and so many more in the community and beyond.
Dr. Lapidus, of Pediatric Affliates represented Dr. Shanik in presenting an award to Dr. Craig Alter, Director of Endocrinology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
“Dr. Alter is available to his patients whenever they need him,” said Dr. Lapidus. “While it is not unusual to find a top doctor of his stature in CHOP, what is so remarkable about Dr. Alter is that he is a mentch beside.”
That mentchlechkeit shone to the fore as Dr. Alter humbly accepted his award and spoke in praise of Misameach and all of the hard work that was invested in this cruise.
He spoke about how much he loves his patients and appreciates their faith in him.
“I enjoy seeing the children so much, it’s hardly work for me,” he said, to resounding applause.
Dr. Alter was soon swept into the spirit of the event, as he posed for pictures and then bravely danced up a storm, Misameach-style.
Another special guest aboard the ship was R’ Gavriel Sassoon, the bereaved father whose breathtaking emunah and bitachon amidst tragedy captivated the entire Jewish nation not too long ago.
He spoke for just a few moments, but his passionate and eloquent words of chizuk penetrated deeply.
“We expect our life to go a certain way and when it doesn’t we get upset and depressed,” he said. “But we have to remember that Hashem has a plan for us. We must live with joy, because at the end we will realize how truly beautiful that plan is.”
His listeners were visibly moved, as the band started up again and R’ Sassoon joined the circle of dancers.
And then, before anyone was quite ready, Avrumy Fried launched into a rousing rendition of L’Shanah Habaah B’Yirushalayim and the boat made its way back to the dock.
The raffle was picked and one lucky winner got to take home a bike.
As the exhilarated passengers disembarked, carrying with us memories we will cherish for a very long time, we were treated to one last expression of Misameach’s generosity: a gift bag loaded with toys and games for children of all ages, stages and genders.
As children exclaimed over the goodies, their parents exchanged smiles and winks, knowing that the memories and the encouragement they gained on that cruise will last long after the last toy breaks and the Twins from France DVD is watched and re-watched, and then watched yet again.