Sweep the supermarket with Ezrat Achim

Lace up those running shoes and let the fun begin!

Splashing around at Ezrat Achim’s Special Summer Camp 2015 (photo credit: DAVID ABITBOL)
Splashing around at Ezrat Achim’s Special Summer Camp 2015
(photo credit: DAVID ABITBOL)
Picture this: You’re racing down the supermarket aisles, grabbing products off shelves, crossing off item after item from your list as you swerve your cart to make sure it doesn’t ram into the woman next to you. Finally, cart full, you run at breakneck speed for the first available cashier, eyes trained on that shopper who’s heading for the same line (she thinks she’s getting there first, does she?) as you wipe the sweat off your face and glance at your watch.
Five minutes to school pickup time? No, it’s an uproariously entertaining female shopping competition called Supermarket Sweep. It’s coming soon to the Osher Ad supermarket in Beit Shemesh, and the organizers are calling all fun-loving women to come and participate.
Just what is Supermarket Sweep? It’s the newest concept in fund-raising.
Using a prepared shopping list, participants “sweep” through the aisles in pairs, finding every item on their list and racing to be the first to the checkout counter. The first pair to make it there wins the contents of their carts.
In order to participate, each woman must commit to raising a minimum of NIS 360, which goes toward Ezrat Achim’s special-needs division.
Ezrat Achim is a Beit Shemesh-based organization that provides medical assistance and a variety of social services to residents from all backgrounds and walks of life. Since its inception in 1997, Ezrat Achim has been a vital part of the Beit Shemesh hesed [deeds of kindness] landscape. Over the past few years, it has seen tremendous growth in the scope of its services, becoming the premier organization for assistance in all medical-related issues.
“This is our second year running this event,” says Yudit Eytan, head of the special-needs division. “Last year, the event was a huge success.
It helped us raise the funds necessary to run our respite summer camp for children with special needs. And [the competition] was such a blast that women have been looking forward all year to the next one!” Ezrat Achim’s many services include providing transportation to hospitals, running Shabbat and holiday medical clinics, loaning medical equipment, distributing burn treatment kits, emergency fetal monitoring, bilirubin testing, running a digital imaging center and providing food for families coping with sickness.
But the jewel in the crown of the organization’s activities is the special-needs division, which runs programs for special-needs children 365 days a year, designed to offer support in a structured and nurturing environment, thus ensuring much-needed respite for their families.
These programs include three after-school centers for children with autism, visual impairment and other developmental delays, after-school workshops for children with autism spectrum disorder, a weekend center, summer camp respite and day camps during vacations and holidays, including Yom Kippur.
Shoshana, the mother of a son with severe autism, is effusive about what Ezrat Achim’s services have meant for her family.
“Imagine trying to get ready for Shabbat when you have a kid at home who needs constant, oneon- one supervision,” she says. “Imagine fasting on Yom Kippur while running after a child as he’s smashing a plate and then playing with the broken glass pieces. For the families of children with severe special needs, Ezrat Achim’s daycare program makes all the difference in the world.”
But the most amazing part, she says, is how genuinely happy the volunteers are to care for her son. “The girls are always thanking me for letting them spend time with him,” she marvels. “For children with special needs, that’s not always the case. What Ezrat Achim does is just unbelievable. I don’t know if there’s any other organization in the world that does what they do.”
Eytan explains that while these programs are partially funded by the city’s welfare department, as well as private foundations and philanthropists, the money is not enough to cover their annual budget.
“Sometimes we’re forced to turn families away,” she laments.
Enter Supermarket Sweep. It’s a way to involve everyone in the fund-raising effort, while having a fun time to boot. All you have to do is raise the necessary NIS 360 by reaching out to family and friends, and you’re in the race. And for those who might be nervous or shy, no one is forced to compete – you can have lots of fun cheering on the sidelines as well! Still, caution participants in last year’s event, you may think you’re coming just to cheer... but don’t underestimate the effects of being swept up by the excitement.
“I came with my two babies, and I thought I would just sit and watch,” recounts Malka. “But, believe it or not, I just stuck my babies in the shopping cart and joined one of the races. I didn’t win, but I had the time of my life.”
The race is in pairs. You can come with a friend or the organizers will set you up with a partner on the spot.
“I didn’t even know what I was getting myself into,” says last year’s winner, a new immigrant from Alabama. “I’m no runner. I didn’t even come with a partner. Ezrat Achim set me up with a wonderful woman, and we ended up winning the race!” Gearing up for this year’s event, the organizers are planning three weeks of intensive fun leading up to the big sweep on June 20 and 27 (due to anticipated high enrollment, they’re holding the event twice).
To kick off the fund-raiser, they’re planning a sign-up event on June 1, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Ramat Beit Shemesh community center at 16 Nahal Dolev Street, and are encouraging all women to attend – whether they reside in Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem, Modi’in or anywhere else in the country. (You may even want to fly in from hutz la’aretz...) No commitment is required; women may just come and learn about the organization and the fund-raiser and, if interested, sign up for the campaign – all while treating themselves to a salad and dessert bar and taking in the entertainment program emceed by comedian Miriam Druyan.
Lace up those running shoes and let the fun begin! 
To sign up for the Supermarket Sweep or to sponsor a Sweepster: ezratachimsweep@gmail.com