Little Gifts, the brainchild of entrepreneur Elad Boker, was created in memory of Boker’s father to help alleviate the suffering of cancer patients by making popsicles available in oncology wards across the country, including in the Joseph Fishman Oncology Center at Rambam Health Care Campus.
When Avi Boker (z”l) was being treated for lung cancer, his son Elad was always on the lookout for ways to alleviate his father’s suffering. The side effects of the chemotherapy were devastating, and included hot flashes and mouth sores. Unfortunately, nothing really seemed to help, but one day, someone suggested popsicles. Recalls Elad, “I brought my father a popsicle, and it really helped him. It made things easier, and even made the mouth sores disappear for a while. After that, whenever my father received treatment, we would bring him popsicles. It put him in a better mood and made him smile.”
Elad was shocked by the popsicle prices, aware of the fact that many of the other patients were unable to purchase them on a regular basis. Many times, he would simply buy lots of popsicles and hand them out for free to the patients who needed them.
Approximately two-and-a-half years after Avi passed away, Elad decided that he wanted to honor his father’s memory, in a manner that would reflect his father’s quiet ways. “His magic was in his modesty. He was a man who quietly helped others without making a fuss,” explains Elad.
Remembering how much the popsicles had eased his father’s situation, Elad purchased one freezer and received the necessary approval to place it in the oncology ward at Beersheva’s Soroka Medical Center. “I walked through the ward handing out popsicles, and saw how happy it made people. I was amazed that something so simple could have such an impact. I realize that the popsicles couldn’t actually heal people, but if you can take difficult moments and do something to make them better, it’s a big deal,” he says.
Elad started a campaign to raise more funds for the project, which he named Little Gifts. With the help of several close friends and a Facebook post written by his cousin, Almog Boker—a journalist for Israel’s Channel 10 news—more than NIS 100,000 was raised in less than one week. Elad took this as a sign that he should expand Little Gifts to include other hospitals as well; today, three months after donating his first freezer full of popsicles, he is distributing popsicles in the same fashion in 16 different hospitals, including Rambam Health Care Campus, with full cooperation from medical staff.
“We started the distribution at Rambam because several of our big donors are from Haifa—Anat and Omri Lavie, and Shalev and Avital Hulio and their family—and it was very important to them that Rambam should be involved in the Little Gifts initiative as well,” notes Elad.
Explains Professor Irit Ben-Aharon, Director of the Oncology Division in Rambam’s Joseph Fishman Oncology Center, “We can see that gestures such as these are having a positive impact on our patients, providing a brief respite from their suffering and making the difficult treatment process a little easier to bear. Elad’s Little Gifts is a welcome initiative and we are pleased to be involved.”
Free popsicles are available throughout the day on a daily basis, and in all the hospitals combined, more than 2,000 are handed out on any given day. The organization works to raise funds to keep the freezers full, and partners with different companies like Nestle, Strauss, and Feldman, who either donate popsicles or provide them at wholesale prices.
“Our options were either to go to war over the prices or to change the reality, and we chose the latter,” Elad says, adding that, “instead of fighting, we wanted to do something good to help others – and it works.”