Cooper Mandel did something special for his Bar Mitzvah. The theme was “Cooper Community Bar Mitzvah” and the goal was to inspire his guests to give back to the community.
His mother Lisa Lazar-Mandel explained, “Because our philosophy is that Bar/Bat’s are as much about the community as they are about the person having the Bar/Bat. Carl and I thought that Cooper’s Bar Mitzvah would be the perfect platform to teach him to give to the community. To personalize the experience of giving, I asked Cooper to choose the way in which he wanted to give back to the community, and at the same time inspire his friends to want to do the same. Cooper, being a very social/ athletic kid, who loves basketball, decided he wanted to donate basketballs to an organization that needed them and thought his friends would think that was cool.”
At his Bar Mitzvah party, his friends decorated boxes with special messages for individuals supported by Reena. Cooper noted, “I think a lot of the kids at My Bar Mitzvah enjoyed decorating the boxes, it was a fun and meaningful activity.” They then placed a ball in each box and added it to the mountain of 100 basketballs that would be delivered to Reena. Sheila Miller, Executive Director of Reena Foundation, showed the guests a video and explained how this gift would make a difference in the lives of the individuals Reena supports. Page Magen of Magen Boys Entertainment remarked at the Bar Mitzvah, “I go to so many Bar Mitzvahs, as you can imagine. It’s so exciting to see young people at an event doing something to give back to the community. That’s what the Bar Mitzvah is all about.”
The basketballs were distributed to programs and residences throughout Reena, including the Special Olympics Basketball Program.
On Thursday December 4th, Cooper and his cousin T’aio along with his parents, Carl and Lisa, and his grandmother Judy, visited the Toby & Henry Battle Developmental Centre. Bryan Keshen, President and CEO of Reena, gave them a special tour and then Cooper and T’aio were introduced to some individuals and program staff from the Special Olympics Basketball Program. The initial trepidation of meeting new and different people quickly vanished, as Cooper and T’aio played with the Reena Rattlesnakes Team. Participant Evan B. remarked, “My favourite part of Cooper’s visit with his cousin was how much fun we had together playing basketball.” The boys had such a great time they stayed for the entire two hour practice!
The experience was transformative. Cooper noted: “It was inspiring to see the faces of the individuals when playing basketball with them. They looked so happy. I felt proud.” He can’t wait to volunteer at Reena in a program like Thursday Night Basketball. “I have learned that giving can be fun. I am so excited that I will get to play and do drills with the boys again.” Cooper told his parents, “Next year, I intend to do my high school community hours at Reena.” His hope is to set an example for his friends and inspire them to support and volunteer at Reena and other organizations in our community.