37 KEF families were treated to a weekend they will never forget. This was the inaugural “FAMILY SHABBOS WITH KEF”, yet the mammoth logistical exercise required to look after each child with special needs and their family was impeccably executed. Every family was made to feel like royalty, with an abundance of different activities and exciting programmes throughout. All the children basked in the attention, energy and love of the over 110 fabulous volunteers, allowing parents to rejuvenate, whilst also connecting with other parents who share similar experiences in navigating the world of special needs.
Bringing up a child with special needs can certainly be stressful, especially on a Friday afternoon. But not this week. Families were given a warm musical welcome to the Hotel Mercure in Daventry, and quickly ushered into a beautiful circus-themed dining room where an acrobat show and a full meaty lunch by Litke caterers, were provided. Throughout Shabbos parents could fully relax knowing their children’s care was the KEF gold standard.
KEF was established 16 years ago by Benny and Shelley Groszman, and Shmulik and Channi Halpern. Could they ever have imagined that one day 37 families would be celebrating Shabbos together, as part of the ever-growing KEF family? And celebrate we did! Shayele Gluck and his Chevra led the Shabbos tefillos which were accompanied by heartfelt songs and lively dancing.
Renowned speaker Rabbi Shlomo Farhi, previously of Chazak UK, flew in from the USA. Rabbi Farhi’s inimitable charismatic manner inspired the crowd, both during his general talks and the personal time he spent talking with individuals throughout the weekend. Fathers, mothers, siblings and volunteers all had their own group talks where Rabbi Farhi sought to give each person, no matter their individual experience or background, a take-home message. In fact, what makes KEF so unique is that it’s an organisation that provides support for families across the community, but still facilitates a feeling of complete connection to one another, bound by the unity of common understanding and support.
The atmosphere at Melava Malka was electric. The band played, Shayele sang, everyone danced. Children were hoisted onto shoulders and the joy was infectious. As parents, we had discussed grasping those wondrous moments amongst the struggles. This was certainly a wondrous moment! Some of our children can’t walk or talk, others have autism or other developmental challenges, but all swayed with the music, a palpable sense of joy in the air.
Additionally, everyone was able to partake in activities they enjoyed, whether it was ice-skating and rock-climbing for the siblings, a petting zoo, swimming and pony rides for all the children, and a massage for the mothers.
The weekend ended with more music and a spectacular balloon release. Each child sending their balloon out into the atmosphere to follow its own path, a fitting ‘going home’ message when considering the paths our own children will take.
The FAMILY SHABBOS WITH KEF in Daventry brought us all together and energised us all to continue to look after Hashem’s most purest of children.
A grateful KEF parent