By Rachel Gross Weinstein
The numbers speak for themself. Thirty teenagers, 50 cars washed and $800 raised. On Tues., July 19, the community came together to support one of its own.
The Teen Travel Camp at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas hosted a car wash to benefit Marine Lance Corporal Brian Aft. Aft, 23, lost both of his legs in April, when he and four other marines stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) while in Afghanistan.
Abbii Cook, youth director at the J, said it was meaningful to do something for the Aft family because they have been active in the Dallas Jewish community. In spearheading the project, she wanted to teach her campers about the importance of mitzvot.
“This summer, I am teaching my kids about tikkun olam and giving back,” Cook explained. “The Aft family has given so much to the Dallas Jewish community and any little bit we can do to give back is important.” Becky Slakman, Aft’s mom, was a previous youth director at the JCC. His sister, Elyssa Aft, is a camp counselor, and Brian, who grew up in North Dallas, attended camp at the J as a child.
From beginning to end, the campers took on all aspects of the car wash from making posters, to standing outside in 100-degree heat directing people, to washing the cars. Throughout the summer, the teens have also collected money for the Mitzvah for a Marine Fund, with all donations going toward Aft’s recovery.
Cook added that she is proud of her campers and believes that everyone — the teens, community and the Aft family — benefitted from this. It was a win-win-win situation. “This [project] hit home with the kids,” she said. “They got into it and even though it was hot, they worked really hard. They did a wonderful job.”
Slakman said Brian’s recovery is progressing nicely at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington DC, and she is appreciative of the Dallas Jewish community’s kindness and generosity. “Our family is so humbled by how the Dallas Jewish community has embraced us,” Slakman said. “We are very grateful.”
Aft attends physical and occupational therapy daily, and continues to get stronger and more independent everyday, Slakman added. Another milestone occurred last week when he had his external pelvis pins removed. Last month, Aft was promoted to Corporal and received his Purple Heart Medal.
To see a video related to the story, visit www.tjpnews.com. For information about how to donate to the Mitzvah for a Marine fund, contact Sam Insel at 214-615-5239, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.jfgd.org.
How to donate
What: Mitzvah for a Marine Fund
Who: All of the money donated benefits Brian Aft, 23, who was injured in Afghanistan
Through July 31: Write a check payable to Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, with the word “Marine” in the note area. Mail checks to Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, 7800 Northaven Road, Dallas, TX 75230.
After July 31: Donations, which are not tax-deductible, may be sent to: Norman Slakman, C/O Silverthorn, 5960 W. Parker Road, Suite 278 Box 134, Plano 75093.