Monmouth County Teens Hailed as Heroes for Children with Special Needs
In an elegant setting at the Two River Theater in Red Bank on Tuesday, June 6, “Hand in Hand,” an organization for special needs children, paid an emotional tribute to their outstanding teenage volunteers at their annual dinner.
Every sector of the Monmouth County Jewish community was represented as over 350 participants were treated to a most moving and inspirational presentation of Hand in Hand’s unique work.
Founded in 2006 under the auspices of Chabad of the Shore, Hand-in-Hand recruits local teenagers to serve as special buddies for children with autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and various other emotional or physical challenges and disabilities.
The evening opened with words from the organization’s director, Rabbi Laibel Schapiro who introduced honorees Nona and Dennis Drazin and Aimee and Jerry Ostrov and all the dedicated teen volunteers.
Visibly moved as he described the dedication of this unique corps of volunteers, Rabbi Schapiro spoke of the preciousness of the soul of a special needs child, “whose purpose is of no less importance than that of any other human being.”
A heart-rending video gave an emotional view of the work of the organization.
Addressing the extreme social isolation of families with special needs children, the video portrayed their plight and their gratitude for the friendship given their children and the social activities provided them by Hand in Hand.
Volunteer Stanley Seckler spoke lovingly of his special friend and the value he derives from being part of the program. “He brings more joy to my life then I could ever hope to bring to his. He is such a charismatic, fun, happy kid. He taught me how to get joy out of all the little things in life. He taught me how a friendship can mean the world to people, and drastically change their lives for the better and how one good deed can sway someone’s emotions. No matter how tired I am when I show up at his house, I always leave wide awake with pure happiness and warmth. He has that effect on people, he makes you feel warm inside and out without even meaning too.”
The emotional peak of the evening was parent Morris Sutton’s speech about his and his wife Shari’s own experience with Hand in Hand.
Finally, attendees were treated to an outstanding performance by world-class violinist, Daniel Ahaviel. He beautifully blended traditional Jewish music with the fast paced Irish genre.
Hand in Hand is making a real difference in the lives of special needs children, their families, and those teenagers who selflessly give of themselves to bring them joy. For more information about Hand in Hand, visit www.hhnj.org or call 732-229-2424.