May all the citizens of Israel be safe during this difficult time and always. May children everywhere continue to be inspired and empowered to fight for just causes.
When you think about it, it’s a strange name for a fundraiser: Hot Dogs for Bomb Shelters.
Most fundraising professionals would tell you that to name an event, you need something memorable or inspiring. “Hot Dogs for Bomb Shelters” isn’t overly catchy or even particularly memorable, but it turns out it had the ability to inspire a whole community. And so does the boy who came up with that name– my 11-year-old son, Aron.
Aron first came up with the idea that he should be doing something to help Israel after we attended our community’s solidarity gathering for Israel. It was a standing-room-only event with some 500 people crammed into a local synagogue, all with a love of Israel in their hearts. There, Aron heard about three teenagers who were kidnapped on their way home from school. He heard about the terror tunnels being dug next to kindergartens and dining halls. He was updated about the woman who had been his favorite babysitter, now a soldier in the IDF. He heard about the Code Red sirens and the 15 seconds that ordinary citizens in the south have to race to a bomb shelter. And most importantly, he heard that there was a role that he could play to make this difficult time better for a few of the people living through it.
Aron committed himself to organizing a fundraiser that would help pay for bomb shelters, and selling hot dogs seemed like a reasonable way for our pre-teen to make that happen. “Hot Dogs for Bomb Shelters” became the talk of our home for 10 days, nearly all the time that was left of summer before school started again. His goal was to raise $360, a significant number for a good Jewish boy. In the first round of publicity, he sent an email to all of our friends and family asking them only to come buy a hot dog. Many of them responded with offers of outright cash. Before he sold his first hot dog, he had already reached his goal.
We adjusted, setting a new goal of $1000. I don’t think Aron was really expecting to reach triple-digits, but he was willing to stretch. He wasn’t sure exactly what it would cost to build a bomb shelter, but $1000 in his young mind was sure to make a considerable dent.
When the big day arrived, Aron was again surprised by people who showed up to support him. An 80-year-old acquaintance insisted on helping us move tables and chairs. Aron’s grandparents came with balloons and stayed to help cook and serve. A congregant donated a package of tofu dogs and gluten-free buns to add to our sales. A group of minyanaires (those who attend the synagogue minyan, or prayer quorum) hung out for 45 minutes in the courtyard waiting to be the first in line for their hot dogs. People showed up and handed over cash, saying, “Keep the change,” and “I don’t want the hot dog, I just wanted to be here to support your mitzvah project.” With each donation he collected, his smile got a little bit wider and his confidence grew a little more solid. He kept trying to count the money he had collected, but a welcome stream of supporters interrupted his count several times. By the day’s end, he had sold 100 hot dogs and collected more than $800 in donations. He had surpassed his goal for a second time.
Blog on United with Israel Elicits Donations
That would be a fine end to this story, if indeed it ended there. But in the background of this fundraiser, people from across the country were reading my first blog post and making donations online as well. Aron received donations from five different states and two different countries. As of this writing, 4,233 people have “liked” that first post, 296 people have shared it, and 224 people have offered comments in praise of Aron’s efforts. Friends have brought donations to the house, and people we know in the community would see Aron or me in the parking lot or the grocery store and hand over a check. This has continued for over a week now, and Aron has collected over $2000.
Our community has continued to support Aron and his “Hot Dogs for Bomb Shelters” fundraiser, strange name and all, and for that our family is very grateful. We are even more grateful to the hundreds of people who have helped Aron learn that he is capable of so much and that he can make an impact in Northern California, in our beloved Israel and around the world.
I asked Aron to write about his experience as part of his thank you letters, and I offer you an excerpt of what he wrote:
“Through this effort, I learned that fundraising is much harder than it seems at first. I thought it was just about shopping and selling hot dogs. There is so much more about publicity, decorations, accounting and inspiring people to participate. I also learned that when an 11-year-old (or any age child) commits to helping a state in trouble, more people will be inspired… I hope to have another fundraiser sometime in the future, even though I’m going back to school.”
Aron was Willing to Give of Himself
Building a bomb shelter is not an inexpensive challenge. Not surprisingly for those reading this post, it costs a lot more than the $2000 he’s been able to raise so far. Aron was willing to give of himself, and in the process he inspired many others to give as well. We hope that you, too, will be inspired to provide a safe place for those who continue to rely on the relative safety of bomb shelters, hoping one day that they will no longer have use for them. Though the hot dogs are sold out, Aron is still accepting donations for his “Hot Dogs for Bomb Shelters” fundraiser through the website below. As he so eloquently put it:
“Israel is still in big trouble and still needs our help. I still have more to accomplish to help Israel get out of trouble, and so does the greater [community]. I hope that you will continue to donate to Israeli causes and help them be safe and protected.”
May all the citizens of Israel be safe and protected during this difficult time and always.
May the people of the world come together to support a land and a people who believe in peace and equality.
And may children everywhere continue to be inspired and empowered to fight for just causes all over the world.
To make a donation, please visit the website of the Jewish Community Foundation of the West (www.jcfwest.org/donation) and indicate “Hot Dogs for Bomb Shelters” as the account name.