Sometimes, we just need an upbeat, inspiring news story to get us through Mondays and generally tough times. It is especially nice when I realize I KNOW the person featured in the story I happened to come across!
Many years ago, on a trip with our Tikvah Ramah New England campers to the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island, we stopped for dinner at the home of Shayna Hersh, one of our Tikvah staff members. The Hersh parents love Ramah, they are “people people,” and were enthusiastic about opening their home and yard to 50 campers and staff members. Nearly 15 years after that dinner, I still recall that Kenny Hersh, the dad, was a friendly kibitzer. He was just as comfortable talking with the college age counselors as with the campers with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Who would have guessed that ten years later, he would be a person with a disability, unable to walk or speak, and able to communicate mainly through typing in to his phone—and through his smiles. Kenny has a very rare neurological disease called Primary Lateral Sclerosis. It affects his mobility and speech. It doesn’t affect his sense of humor.
A Providence Journal reporter spotted recently, out for a stroll in his GRIT Freedom Chair—wearing a t-shirt, shorts and his Camp Ramah hat. Kenny, 66, was more than happy to stop and speak with the reporter. Kenny told the reporter he has 3 adult kids and 10 grand kids (I am lucky enough to know all three through my work in the Jewish world— Shayna, Eytan and Ami), he still works (at American Wallpaper and Design Center, the business he and his wife own), and he encouraged the reporter to “Ask anything you like. I’m not shy.”
Hersh may have lost some of his mobility and ability to speak. He is still a great communicator and a very positive person with a great sense of humor. We can all learn so much from him.
Read the article, “A chance encounter with a wheelchair exerciser — who can’t speak — on Blackstone Blvd” here.