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Ethan’s Story

On June 29, 2013, at URJ-Goldman Union Camp Institute, a summer camp near Indianapolis, a sudden burst of lightning struck on the athletic field where Ethan was out enjoying some Ultimate Frisbee with other campers. Everything changed for Ethan in that one moment. He was taken in critical condition to a local Children’s Hospital, where the doctors and nurses worked around the clock to stabilize him and assess his injuries. Ethan suffered a severe brain injury as a result of his injuries.

Updates (99)

June 22, 2018

Dear Ethan,

How do I even begin to express the emotions that have been pouring through my body, mind and soul this entire school year? Let me begin with a story:

When you were born, on July 19, 2000, we were so excited to welcome you into our growing family. Not long after (I’m not kidding here), I was asked on a number of occasions, “When will you start Ethan in kindergarten?” “Really?” I thought, while looking at my beautiful weeks-, and later, months-old baby. I never thought of your summer birthdate as providing such interesting dialogue. Your dad and I figured we would wait and see. See if you were ready to start a kindergarten program at the age of five and one month, or if you would benefit from waiting until you were six. Regardless, that was years away. Even as a toddler/preschooler, we were barraged with stories of what others had done with their children, and why we should follow the same path; start you “early,” wait an extra year—whatever was recommended was the absolute “best” plan, so we were told. As we had done with your older brother, Zakary, we poured into you our hopes and dreams for a future filled with wonder and exploration. Fast forward a few years and we discovered that, while you were quite inquisitive, you were also able to sit and listen well to your preschool teachers, and, by all accounts, ready to begin kindergarten in the fall of 2005. You thrived in school, loved learning and participating in everything that came your way, and were on track to be part of the Graduating Class of 2018…

Well, life changed. Drastically.

For the first few years after your injury, we were predominately focused on the rehabilitation part of your recovery. School took a place on the back burner. Whatever it would take to help you make the most gains possible, that’s where our attention remained. Nothing could sway us from giving you the best chance at coming back to us. However, your mounting medical challenges kept you returning to the hospital, for weeks, and sometimes months, at a time. Each hospitalization would hinder any positive gains, and, more often, would compound the growing list of challenges. All we could do was continue moving forward, keeping our eye on the goal of helping you achieve “more.” Eventually, the more whittled away. It’s ok if you remain wheelchair-bound, we reasoned, plenty of people lead successful lives without the use of their legs. The same reasoning was used when we thought of your use of your arms. And your ability to speak.

Slowly, painstakingly at times, the days, weeks, months and years passed, with increasing returns to the hospital, bringing us to late-summer 2017. A realization washed over us that this was supposed to be the start of your senior year of high school. That was not going to happen.

How could we make room in our hearts for all that you had missed out on and all that you would be missing from this school year (and beyond)? I can tell you this, it has not been a positive year for me, emotionally. I did not deal with any of it very well. I retreated from friends and social gatherings, I created a cocoon around myself, and I welcomed the quiet space to mourn it all. I “saw” you in every imaginable location; participating in sport teams, theater, show choir, even walking across the school parking lot with friends. Senior pictures, applying and being accepted to college, school dances, youth group events, plans for being a camp counselor, the list goes on and on. I kept a low profile on social media, as it was too painful to see what friends posted regarding their “seniors.”

Loveland High School graduation took place a few days ago. You were not there. Neither were we, nor our extended family. In fact, your dad and I secured extra nursing coverage and took a 24-hour leave from the city. As heartbreaking as missing out on this milestone with you was for us, your dad and I wish great things to all of the Graduating Class of 2018—push yourselves beyond your wildest dreams, find where your passions lie, and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.

Our beautiful son, Ethan, you don’t need to worry about us. Do you remember that feeling when you would dive into a pool, and make the descent to the bottom? Once you reached the bottom you would tap out with your hand, turn your body around, and push off with your feet, heading up to the surface of the water. Your dad and I have reached this bottom, and we are making our way back. We have taken measures to strengthen our health, lift our spirits, and find the joy in the tiniest of things. We are emerging from this much-needed period of sadness. We love you and will always take care of you, assuring that you are able to reach as high as possible.

With love and strength, always and forever,
Mom and Dad

January 3, 2018


Tonight is a milestone—tonight marks the fifth Eighth Night for Ethan. Prior to the first, we had written remarks, but Ethan’s body decided that the hospital was where we needed to be that night, instead of celebrating the last night of Chanukah with the community which had already done so much to support us.

Thanks to our oldest son, Zakary, those remarks were still delivered, and a beautiful tradition was started.

Fortunately, we are here tonight, as one family, celebrating a holiday that has come to mean so much more to us than just the Miracle of Lights.

When speaking about the story of Chanukah, many like to focus on the messages of “a light in the darkness,” or “hope where there was none,” or “the miracle of oil.” Although it plays second fiddle to these themes, friendship, and unity, play a tremendous role in the Chanukah tale. It takes a special kind of bond to fight together against a well-trained Greek army, and the bonds of friendship—the brotherhood of the Maccabees—won the day, just as much as Judah’s hammer.

Ethan is blessed to have his own band of Maccabees fighting with him tonight. This entire event was envisioned, organized, and executed by some of Ethan’s closest friends from his time at Yavneh/Rockwern Academy.
These friends created the “Battle of the Schools” to help raise money for Ethan’s continuous medical care, and our family is so grateful for all the time and effort they have put in to making this night so special. We are constantly amazed by the amount of love people display for Ethan—as well as for our family—and this outpouring from his friends has been a tremendous sight to behold. Perhaps a true light in the darkness, providing us with hope where there was none. And some may even say, a miracle.

Even though these friends will soon be going their separate ways as they venture off to college, we hope that their bonds will remain strong. It takes a special kind of friendship to band together to fight for a friend who needs their aid.

Thank you all for coming, thank you for your generous donations to help make Ethan’s care a little bit easier, and thank you to Ethan’s Maccabees.

Photo Galleries (3)

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June 22, 2018

Donation from two of Ethan’s classmates.... Connor and Brendan Hogan.

Peggy Hogan

June 15, 2018

In support of Ethan and his family

Ali Reich

June 8, 2018

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June 6, 2018

Sending strength and love to your family from St. Louis - The Yawitz Family

Julie Yawitz