Last Shabbos, 68 miles and approximately 1.5 hours driving distance away from London, over 350 people created a haven of holiness in a hotel in Daventry.  

The second KEF Family Shabbos included 42 KEF families – KEF participants, parents and siblings – and a team of volunteers to support and execute a magical Shabbos that was exceptional beyond description.

From the moment families entered the hotel on Friday afternoon to great excitement, fanfare and attention, the entire building came alive with a spirit of love, understanding, support and care.   Families from all different backgrounds with different needs and circumstances, entered a special bubble and joined together with a common bond – the bond of KEF.

Having a child with special needs means that families are always on guard.  In every situation – whether in shul, the shops, the park, a simcha – there is the extra pressure of ensuring that that environment works for their child’s special circumstances, and for the people around them.  In the KEF environment, all this pressure melted away and everyone could just “be”. 

A jam-packed programme of tailor-made activities for every age and ability ran seamlessly from the start, with parents participating in workshops, motivational talks, inspirational speeches and pampering sessions, while their children enjoyed a range of exciting activities and outings including bowling, limousine rides, sneaker designing, animal shows and crafts.  The weekend was just a small glimpse for families of what their children experience at KEF - a very special world where each special participant is celebrated, accepted and loved just the way they are and supported in the way that’s best for them. Itzik Caterers ensured that everyone was wined and dined for the entire weekend, with beautifully catered meals to accommodate every dietary need and want imaginable. 

KEF was honoured to be joined by Rabbi Moshe Levy of Chazak, who befriended and inspired parents, siblings and volunteers alike.  With his inimitable sense of humour simultaneously combined with depth and compassion, he gave several addresses throughout the weekend, each with a different theme and message, which truly touched the hearts of every participant.  Shayele Gluck and his Chevra uplifted souls and spirits with beautiful tefillos, kumzitses, dancing and a most memorable choral Havdala.  Rebetzin Gila Hackenbroch supported and strengthened the ladies with deep and insightful workshops. 

The atmosphere on Motzei Shabbos at Melava Malka was electric.  The joy was infectious and nobody wanted the evening to end.  It was truly the most magical climax of the entire weekend.  

All the separate elements of the KEF Family Shabbos blended together to result in a deeply life-changing experience for every participant.  It is difficult to capture the essence of the weekend in words, but feedback from families was simply mindblowing, with parents emphasising how much this weekend has strengthened and impacted them – has given them a feeling of being amongst family, of being understood, supported and accepted, of being able to go away as a family – something many have thought not feasible -  of literally making the impossible possible.    

On Sunday night, when parents had returned home and shared photos of their children going to sleep wearing their KEF t-shirts or still wearing their minnie-mouse ears or clutching the various treasures they had accumulated during the weekend, it truly demonstrated the deep sense of belonging to the KEF family that they all felt. 

One thing is certain – there was not a single participant who walked into the Daventry Mercure Hotel on Friday and left there the same person on Sunday afternoon.  It was truly special. 

KEF is indebted to its sponsors and donors and the most outstanding team of volunteers whose ongoing support and dedication made the weekend possible.