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By Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg
For the third year in a row, Avalon is sharing the love of Valentines Day with those in need through our Kickin’ Out the Love Valentines’ campaign. This year, we are partnering with Kids Kicking Cancer, an inspiring organization with a powerful mission. Founder Elimelech Goldberg tells the story.
Seven years after the death of my first child to leukemia I found myself the director of one of the earliest pediatric oncology camps nestled in the Catskill mountains of New York. The infirmary at Camp Simcha was like a little hospital in the woods. One day I walk into the chemo room to see a five year old little boy being held down by two nurses with a third holding a very large syringe to put into this boy’s port in his chest. He was screaming and struggling. This child was from Texas, far away from Mom and Dad and the doctors that he was used to. The nurses were great but the child refused to be distracted or bribed. He was too afraid.
In the old days we used to teach in the medical schools that there was a pain center in the brain. Today, with the use of functional MRI’s we can evidence an entire neuro-matrix of pain reception. Included within the fray are the parts of the brain that register fear, anger, despondency and other emotional parameters. Clearly, if people don’t feel purpose within their struggles, they will experience a greater level of pain.
This little boy from Texas was anything but calm. The fears of a different environment and a way too practiced experience of being in pain and discomfort promised a horrific experience. Just as the nurse was ready to plunge the syringe into his chest and in the midst of his overwhelming screams, I walked onto that scene. It was so counter intuitive to me that I heard my voice, yell out, “Wait.” The room stopped, even the boy stopped screaming. Everyone looked at me... I had no clue what I was going to say next. “Give me five minutes with this boy”, I petitioned. The nurses were happy to leave and the young patient looked at me as if I was the governor and had just stayed his execution. I walked over to this young boy and said, “ I’m a black belt”. Frankly that doesn’t necessarily mean much, but to that five year old child from Texas, it was clearly a “wow!” “Do you want me to teach you some karate?” I asked. The little boy almost jumped off the table. “In the martial arts,” I explained, “Pain is a message that you don’t have to listen to. You can bring in this amazing karate energy and blow out the pain.” Five minutes later we were doing a simple Tai Chi breathing technique together. Twenty minutes later the nurse pulled out the needle. The little boy looked up. “Did you do it yet,” he asked.
At that moment, Kids Kicking Cancer was born.
Twelve years ago, we began a pilot project with ten little boys and girls at Childrens Hospital of Michigan. Last year we saw over 2,200 children in the US, Canada and Europe. As we are now without the federal funds that originally supported our Detroit program, we are feverishly looking for friends and supporters to make certain that we continue to help the children in our community beyond their pain.
Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg or "Rabbi G." as the children fondly refer to him, is a black belt who lost his first child to leukemia. In founding Kids Kicking Cancer he is dedicated his daughter's memory to helping ease the pain of very sick children while empowering them to heal physically, spiritually and emotionally.