Friendship Circle volunteer Levi Heber shares how he was able to help his friend Yosef excel at the Chidon and join the trip of a lifetime with hundreds of kids his age.
Click here to read Yossi’s story in his own words.
My name is Levi Heber. When I joined Friendship Circle’s volunteer program about two years ago, I was introduced to Yosef.
Yosef is a fun, bright, and wonderful boy who was born with Down Syndrome.
At first, Yosef and I enjoyed playing games, dancing to music, and having fun together.
Yosef often spoke of his excitement for Chidon, and how much he wished to be a part of it.
At some point, I thought to myself, “What if Yosef could actually join Chidon? Maybe there’s a way!”
That’s when I got to work.
I reached out to a few people and got in touch with Rabbi Mendel Wolowik, who manages Chidon operations.
Mendel loved the idea, and we started brainstorming how to make this happen.
At first, I suggested to Mendel that maybe we should make a special curriculum for Yosef, but Mendel wanted Yosef to be part of mainstream Chidon as much as possible. “Let Yosef try the regular curriculum first,” was his response—and that’s what we did.
Yosef got a Chidon book and we got started.
Yosef understood the material quite quickly and was very involved in the learning. He studied for about fifteen minutes each day. When I’d come for my weekly visit, I would test him on the previous material, and then we would learn more together.
We still played music and danced, but this time it was a different song—the Chidon song!
When we got Yosef’s marks after the first Chidon test, Mendel and I were stunned. Yosef scored more than 90%!
I remember running over to Yosef’s house that night with the good news. We sang that Chidon song like there was no tomorrow. Yosef now felt like he could actually do it!
So we continued forward; Yosef reviewing his quota every single night, and me keeping up with the weekly review and further learning. Yosef just kept on going.
His determination and commitment were so inspiring to me. On the night of the last Chidon test, I excitedly assured him, “After this test, you’re done!”
Without missing a beat, he replied back to me, “You mean after this test, I am starting Book Two.”
Yosef took that last test, bringing his average to 87% on the Havonah track. Wow, indeed, he successfully passed! He was now eligible for the Chidon yarmulka, sweater, trip, and other amazing prizes—Yosef’s dream came true!
With the incredible help of Rabbi Mendel Wolowik, Yosef was able to join the East Coast regional trip, and I was even able to come with him to celebrate this special milestone.
That morning, Yosef woke up extra early. We walked together to 770—Yosef fully decked with his Chidon sweater and yarmulka. He even brought along his Chidon plaque and medal.
It seemed like the trip of a lifetime for him, as he united with hundreds of boys from so many schools in celebration of Chidon. He thoroughly enjoyed every minute, from the game show and pizza, to bowling and the American Dream Water Park. He eagerly soaked it all in.
After that long day, as we arrived back at his house at 11:00 p.m., Yosef gave me the biggest hug ever. Both of us were thinking the same thing—
WE DID IT!
Note from Yosef’s parents:
From the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank Chidon for making this possible for Yosef. It means the world to us.
We are so proud of each and every child participating in Chidon, and look forward to continued growth. Every Child, Every Mitzvah!
Tzivos Hashem is running a campaign right now! On behalf of Yosef and other children like him, please partner with them in their vital work.
They are truly making a difference in children’s lives, and YOU can be a part of that difference! Every dollar counts. Donate generously at www.growthearmy.com