1_OC_0618_Sticky_Feature_Arlenes_CornerI’M THRILLED TO once again be hosting young athletes in my home—this time for the 2018 JCC Maccabi Games being held in August at the Merage JCC. In 2013, when I was living in Austin, Texas, our JCC hosted the Maccabi Games. Although my own children were too young to play in the games (I had a toddler and a kindergartner), we welcomed two athletes into our home. All we needed was to be able to drive them back and forth in the morning and night, feed them breakfast and dinner, and make sure they each had a bed to sleep on. It sounds like a lot, but it was really hardly any effort, and so worthwhile because this was a week where magic happened.

I originally offered to host because I wanted to support my community, and I thought it would be fun for my family. What I didn’t realize was that those kids would become my kids. We hosted two boys, one who towered over us (and who had to be cautioned daily not to get a head injury on the slanted ceiling of the attic room where they were staying). Who knew that in the course of one week I would become so completely invested in their hopes and dreams as we cheered them from the sidelines while they played basketball or soccer?

And as it turned out, my week with Maccabi wasn’t just about spectating—I also volunteered at the games, and that refreshed some old relationships and created new ones. While working at the snack bar, I met an older gentleman, and our talk went the natural route of Jewish geography. It turned out he and my dad had both been Lions together in northern Virginia a few years back! I also reunited with my next door neighbor from Sherman Oaks, Calif., as he was cheering his son’s soccer team. We talked more at the Austin games than we ever had in L.A.!

This year, we are again going to be a host family, and I’m overjoyed that my children are old enough to participate. My son will be a Star Reporter and get to experience the games play-by-play as he and his “team” ride the buses with the athletes and share behind-the-scenes stories. This is such a great way for our kids to be part of this experience, even if they’re not competing.

His younger sister isn’t old enough to play (you have to be 12 by July 31), but as part of the Jr. Maccabi team, she gets to wear a full Maccabi uniform, and she and her friends will be part of the torch-lighting ceremony at the opening event on Sunday, August 5, with thousands of spectators. The Jr. Maccabi group is responsible for walking in with the athletes from around the world. What better way to inspire the next generation and their families to want to be part of this experience!

I invite you to join me in hosting teens for this summer’s JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest, from August 5 to August 10. If you have kids, what’s a few more? They make for a great week of fun and excitement! If you have little ones, it’s a wonderful opportunity for role models. For those of you who are empty nesters, it’s an opportunity for a full house again. The kids come from all over the country—and even the world. It’s truly a magical experience.

For more information about hosting a Maccabi athlete, please go to the Merage JCC website: www.jccoc.org/maccabi/host.  

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