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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Cancer, Children & Youth, Children & Youth Services, Health, Judaism, Patient & Family Support, Religion



Chai Lifeline’s guiding principles are

  • That seriously ill children need and deserve as happy and normal a childhood as possible;
  • That illness affects each member of the family;
  • That the well-being of an ill child is impacted by the well-being of his or her family;
  • That pediatric illness can have a devastating financial effect on families.

With this in mind, Chai Lifeline strives to

  • Find ways to bring joy to the lives of our young patients and their families through creative, innovative, and effective family-focused programs, activities, and services;
  • Engender hope and optimism in children, families, and communities;
  • Educate and involve communities in caring for ill children and their families;
  • Provide unparalleled support throughout the child’s illness, recovery and beyond;
  • Build communities among children and families living with illness or loss that allow them to engage, strengthen, and encourage one another;
  • Offer all services free of charge to ensure that every family has access to the programs it needs.

Results: In 2010: 1. We built a new, state-of-the-art medical center at the Camp Simcha/Camp Simcha Special campus, the first step in doubling the capacity of the camps. 2. Hundreds of children received a "booster shot" of confidence, friendship, and support at Friends 'n Fun weekends across North America. 3. We opened after-school programs for children living with illness or loss in their homes in three additional cities. 4. Over 18,100 hospital visits helped children laugh through their pain and gave crucial emotional support to parents.

Target demographics: Children, teens, and young adults with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, disabilities, and chronic disease.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 4,300 children and their families

Geographic areas served: North America, Europe, Israel

Programs: Chai Lifeline understands that a child’s illness creates a tear in the fabric that holds families together. Our network of 24 programs and services strengthen the family unit, giving children and parents the tools to remain cohesive and hopeful from the moment of diagnosis. Programs are divided into four major categories: camping’ concrete living services; counseling and support; recreation and the arts. All programs are free of charge. Chai Lifeline’s flagship programs are its two camps for seriously ill children and teens, Camp Simcha and Camp Simcha Special. These camps are place where pain and illness vanish, and where children are reminded every day that anything is possible. The personalized attention and genuine regard of compassionate, trained staff are potent medicine for campers who are often socially isolated as a result of illness. Deep friendships and camaraderie developed through bunk living and everyday triumphs enhance resilience, raise confidence, and give 450 children and teens the will to keep fighting the devastating social and emotional impact of living with illness. Concrete living services enable families to maintain important routines and provide unparalleled support during medical crises. Professional case managers/patient navigators provide immediate emotional support, medical referrals, information and advocacy. Hot meals and hospital visits from volunteers lift spirits as they nourish bodies. Insurance advocacy guides parents through the maze of regulations and reimbursements. Educational support, including tutoring, loans of laptop computers, and webcam connections between child and classroom, enables children who can’t be in school to remain current in the classwork. Chai Lifeline offers free counseling to ill children and their immediate families. Parents have found information and friendship through ChaiLine therapist-facilitated telephone support groups and interactive telephone sessions with medical and mental health experts. Every year, hundreds of families attend retreats for families coping with life-threatening illness, chronic disease and disability, or bereavement. Recreational activities during the year facilitate friendships and peer support. Regional outings give families a chance to reconnect, exchange information, and absorb new ideas for coping with the unique challenges of pediatric illness. Children’s activities enable ill children and their siblings to befriend the only people whom they feel truly understand them: others in their situation. Creative arts offer an avenue for expression and friendship.

Community Stories

21 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters



Rating: 1

Chai Lifeline is a corrupt organization. The River Reporter just ran a story that the neighbors of Camp Simcha had fought with them for fourteen years over the sewer system. Chai Lifeline had not built a new sewer even though the NY Post reported that Mr. Bookman had donated $900,000 for it in 2012 and filed a complaint with the NYS Attorney General. Now that Chai Lifeline is begin forced to build the sewer by the NYS Attorney General they are twisting the facts and are publishing stories stating that they themselves decided to build the sewer to expand Camp Simcha. In the stories, they have the gall to request donations to expand the camp after they had misappropriated Mr. Bookman’s money and are taking credit for building the sewer! How slimy can you get!

Here are a couple of facts about Chai Lifeline that are not commonly known. Chai Lifeline pays to publish their stories on sites where negative comments are rejected by the publisher to keep their advertising, allowing Chai Lifeline to twist the truth.

Chai Lifeline bullies other charities. The refuse to work with others and would rather not help children than to share any credit. As one example of many, they were recently thrown out of a yeshiva because another charitable organization was present, thereby not helping traumatized students after seven children had died in a fire.

By the way, you can ignore the positive comment from Thankfulvolunteer. If you want to know who wrote it, just ask the board members.

There is no way they are getting another cent from me.



Rating: 5

It's really an amazing organization that does incredible things for sick children and their families. Nothing that anyone can say detracts from that reality. The complaints of specific individuals on this site say more for what they DON'T mention - the kids who are served by Chai Lifeline and who are sustained from year to year by the dream of returning for another summer to Camp Simcha - than for what they do (bruised feelings, big egos). The volunteers who donate so selflessly of their time and effort on behalf of this organization are a charitable-giving "multiplier" - you get ten times in services for every dollar that you give.

47 Harvey B.


Rating: 1

I am the biggest supporter ever of Chai Lifeline. However, in a recent interview of the Executive Vice President by the Jewish Week editor and publisher, the Chai Lifeline top executive was asked if I was, indeed, the charity’s largest donor. He said I was one of the largest donors, adding,“there are a few” in that category, according to editor, who said the Executive Vice President declined to name the others. It is not clear what the word “category” means so I offer Chai Lifeline $1,000,000 for immediate proof of these aforementioned "few” other donors that gave a similar amount as me. To be fair, I will allow them to count any donor whose lifetime contributions that are within 25% of mine.

So what do you do when you find yourself faced with the following ethical and moral dilemma – you totally support the mission and work an organization provides but are confronted with the real possibility the leadership is dishonest? Do you walk away from the people the charity supports or do you make your continued financial support contingent on an immediate leadership change? I see no choice but to only continue my support with a complete change in leadership. The leadership of any charity, and especially one that deals with the individual and family needs associated with sick children, must be true to their word on all counts.

In 2012, I heard that Chai Lifeline had a problem with the Camp Simcha sewer system. The health department warned the camp that they cannot expand, and the camp had to take on strong conservation measures.

I donated $900,000 as a directed contribution for the sewer and the naming rights, expecting to name it after myself. I wanted to show how crazy this naming rights can become. By the way, in case you’re wondering, my wife said there’s no way her name would go on it with me!

In mid-2013, I offered the single largest donation ever to Chai Lifeline. This donation would have raised my lifetime donations to a level that the Executive Director of Development had told me and other donors for many years would give them the honor of having the Chai Lifeline organization dedicated in their name.

The Executive Vice President and the board rejected the donation. They claimed the Executive Director, the highest paid employee, who collected most of the money for the organization for nineteen years and always gave out honors and dedications, did not have the right to make the offer. The Executive Director of Development was represented as a principle of the organization and as such had entered into a legally binding contract on behalf of the organization. Based on the condition on the donation the board rejected the donation. I find the rejection of this donation appalling at the least, in direct conflict with the organization's mission to help sick children and their families, and a real question of the execution of each of the board member's fiduciary responsibility.

I still hadn’t heard that the sewer was built so I sent emails to the Executive Vice President, and to the entire board of directors. Their answers were not responsive to my direct inquiries.

I realized that they may no longer have the money for the sewer, even though the donation should have been segregated from general operating funds. I emailed the Executive Vice President and the board of directors and very clearly give them three options: (1) show me the $900,000 is accounted for, (2) return the money to me, or (3) resign. They never choose one so I informed them I will contact the NYS Attorney General and file a complaint. They still didn’t respond with a choice.

I filed a complaint in late 2013 that Chai Life had misappropriated $900,000. Through it all the Executive Vice President has never contacted me.

The law requires a donation for a specific project to become restricted money; the charity must not spend it on anything other than what the donor requested. The Executive Vice President now claims the Executive Director sent an email in 2012 that made the funds unrestricted; the Executive Director refutes the meaning of the email. Additionally, on September 3, 2014, the Executive Vice President sent an email to the publisher and editor of the Jewish Week stating, “As I said we always had enough available funding for this project from the very onset.” If their story is true, why didn’t they write it to me in 2013?!

Regardless, the organization has to keep the funds available. I have donated restricted funds to Hatzolah five times to buy ambulances and over ten times to the Wildlife Conservation Society and never once did either spend the money on anything but on what it was directed to be spent on. All of these commitments were done verbally like the agreement with Chai Lifeline

In early 2014, after the loss of my support and the loss of their largest donation ever, the organization remortgaged Camp Simcha and used the $1,000,000. This is a direct violation of a 2009 commitment they made in writing to me about being fiscally responsible when I threatened to stop donating.

We all agree that Chai Lifeline does great things. But they have lost at least their largest donor, and I believe many more will follow. For the organization to survive and prosper, I believe the Executive Vice President and the entire board of directors must be replaced immediately. By supporting this organization under current management, donors are hurting its potential, or possibly its survival.

I am hoping all will see the light and stop supporting Chai Lifeline. Once management is changed, I strongly suggest that all support it with all their means.

And the name of the sewer — I changed my mind. I want to name the cesspool after the Executive Vice President and some of the board of directors.

I stand behind the facts in the article. If the Executive Vice president and the Board of Directors of Chai Lifeline can disprove them all, I will donate $5,000,000 to Chai Lifeline. To get this money, they must publish their disproof in a prominent publication, and be willing to publicly open their audited books to prove their facts. If I get such a request, I will forward it to the Attorney General as fraud as I guarantee it can’t be true.

What will you do about Chai Lifeline now that you know what’s going on? Stop supporting it or move over to the dark side?

Review from Guidestar

2 Jacob M.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 1

They have seven highly paid executives that range in pay from about 180,000 to about 450,000. That's for their 2011 tax return. It's likely higher now.

Chai lifeline also runs a surplus every year and now has 10 million extra in the bank.

If you want to volunteer to help cancer kids, God bless you. If you are looking for your money to have an impact, there are more effective organizations.


Rating: 5

There are no words to describe how Chai Lifeline impacts lives. They are there at the moments you need them most, and continue to support. I remember once I got a call from Chai Lifeline late in the afternoon asking if I can go downtown to the hospital to deliver food to a family who's son was admitted to emergency. Once I got to the hospital and met the mother, she was confused as to why I was delivering food. I told her I was from Chai Lifeline, and immediately a smile filled her face. She said "My son was just admitted 2 hours ago and I have no clue how Chai Lifeline knew that, but I'm not surprised."Chai Lifeline never stops amazing everyone around with all they have done and continue to do. I'm honored to be part of such an incredible organization!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Words alone cannot suffice to describe the impact this organization has on the individual lives of so many children, teenagers, families, volunteers and members of the community. Perhaps pictures can do better justice than words - check out Chai Lifeline's website! Giving the gift of happiness to children who have a hard time finding it due to circumstances outside their control, and enabling exhausted parents to see their children happy for, perhaps, the first time in weeks or months warms the hearts of those who witness the changes this organization can enact. I have witnessed these miracles for a number of years, though I only volunteered once or twice myself. Laughter and happiness help healing. Chai Lifeline sponsors happiness. Chai lifeline makes miracles happen - every day.

3 Robyn5

Client Served

Rating: 5

Just starting to have to deal with this organization and they have been so wonderful. When your life gets turned upside down by your child being diagnosed with cancer - Chai Lifeline comes in and turns it right back around. Nothing is too much to ask for.

1 Emall G.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

we wish you were not needed, since you are thank g-d for chai lifeline

1 Mi L.


Rating: 5

Did you know there's a Disney Land in Upstate New York? Did you know there's a group of people that are like angels like white angels helping relieve and cure the pain of cancer patients? Not just with daily help, such as, food services, babysitting, housekeeping, big sistering, tutoring, hotlining, dr. Referring but in general blowing a wind and spirit of life and excitment so magically into the patient undergoing treatment and the family. For years, I was employed as a counselor/supervisor at Camp Simcha which I like to refer to as Disney Land in Upstate. I was just a counselor; cancer has never touched my family and so I felt like I needed to give back. For those two weeks suddenly; there were no problems in this world for everything was so happy. No problems one would think? When you have young bald kids already aged 4 until 24 running around camp attached to an IV sometimes or many times stuck in a wheelchair. Yes, the happiest place; for besides for Camp Simcha not stopping at anything and going all out with a disney level program on a disney level camp ground. Camp simcha proved that happiness is not dependent on the physical; it's something deep within. So for these 2 weeks we left our make up bags home, our nice clothes and modern tech gadegets home, barely spoke to old friends or family and met eye to eye with the chore of the human. We saw the naked truth cus the physical and materialistic outters were gone. We were so excited with that one thing called "life" we too as volunteers suddenly felt connected to this desperation and apperation for life. We would dance and sing and hug and laugh. There was no discrimination, there was no limitation to the word happiness. The camp has free soda machines, a canteen that has sweets and dream goodies that only the happiest place in the world can possess. It has artrooms and wood carving rooms and pottery room and baking and a sophisticated basketball court and a wheelchair accesible pool and the greatest cook in the world; preparing 16 course meals. The lake has motor boats, paddle boats, kayaks and what not?!?! I know I've omitted some very important facilities like the game room etc..... I know and so do my colleague volunteers that the endless and tireless giving and spread of happiness that Camp Simcha has achieved is one that many cancer survivors and thousands of volunteers and bereaved families can attest to. The so many children that have left this world and met with true peace have no doubt helped and given strength to the organization to function and run better and better as a merit of the endless and tireless giving they gave until that last breath. Many an organization have tried competing with Chai Lifeline/ Camp Simcha but there's something magical that just can't drive them out of their success. They have built a professional team of directors and an organization run by professional and honest pple like Rabbi Simcha Scholar who are there for one thing and one thing only; to help and assist and ease. I was employed for a short while at the manhattan office and I was amazed when Rabbi Scholar told me at a meeting; "in this office and in this organization there are no mistakes; it's not an enter and delete process here, WE ARE DEALING WITH A LIFE!!!!! He screamed. The office runs like clock work; with scheduled case meetings and all that a professional office needs so it functions properly which directly affects the success of all they do for the cance patients and their families. Recently my niece was diagnosed and now; although once far from my family. I'm connected again with the organization (4 kids later and many years past) and those pictures that my brother emails us from the volunteers and case workers. The help they've supplied him with at home and otherwise cannot be properly described. For words cannot always do justice, especially in this situation. Chai lifeline/Camp Simcha deserve every high honor that can be bestowed upon them. And if not in this world then in the world to come.

1 Haj B.


Rating: 5

I have seen Chai Lifeline step in and support the child and family of seriously ill children. I know their expertise in helping the family establish a sense of normalcy and cope with the financial and emotional strains. There is no better organization out there. They celebrate the cures, remissions, successes and mourn with the families whose struggle has changed.