People Making A Difference: Parents Turn Grief Of Losing Child Into Smiles For Countless Others
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — From the poking and prodding to the tubes and strange sounds, hospitals are generally anything but comfortable — especially for children.
For Sharon and Roberto Litwak, this is something they know all too well.
"Oscar was our son, and he was diagnosed with Wilms' tumor when he was four months old," Sharon said. "He passed away a month after he turned four."
In the wake of Oscar's death, the Litwaks were devastated but found the strength to pick up and move forward.
"After he passed away, we felt there was something more to his life than just saying, 'OK, we've had him for four years, and that's it,'" Sharon said. "Roberto basically said, 'We're doing a nonprofit,' and he filled out all the paperwork, and within a month, we had the Oscar Litwak Foundation."
The grieving parents were not initially sure exactly what the goal of the foundation would be, so they thought of Oscar and some of his biggest needs when he was in the hospital.
"Oscar was, you know, undergoing chemotherapy treatment and he was literally staring at the TV for eight hours a day because there was nothing else for him to do," Roberto said.
"So we said, 'How about trying to fulfill the need of play of the kids in the hospitals,'" Sharon said. "Doesn't matter how sick the kids are, they always want to be kids."
Established in 2003, the Oscar Litwak Foundation's goal is to improve the quality of life of sick children who are hospitalized or receiving longterm care by bringing mobile playrooms full of toys, games, books, movies and more to them.
"For them to see, you know, a colorful cart just rolling in, and it opens up and it's full of toys and games, or even just brand new stuff that they want to get into," Roberto said. "I think it just changes their entire outlook."
The mobile playrooms are currently in more than 96 hospitals across the U.S., Mexico and Israel.
"I've always said it this way, 'It's a little bit of a selfish way for us to keep our connection with Oscar," Roberto said. "And every time we see, you know, one of the kids smile, then we know Oscar is kind of smiling back."
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