CINCINNATI -- Zack Berger and Daniel Shapiro first met Ethan Kadish years ago when they were all in kindergarten.
“He was always such a good friend,” Zack said. “The joy that he exuded was so contagious.”
Ethan stood out because he was kind to everyone, Daniel said.
“Such a nice kid,” he added. “Super friendly.”
That’s what made it all the more devastating when Ethan was struck by lightning on June 29, 2013, while he was away at summer camp. The lightning strike stopped his heart and robbed his brain of oxygen for many minutes.
Zack and Daniel are now seniors in high school and planning for college while Ethan remains stuck. His injury was so serious that he still can’t walk or talk or do anything for himself.
Ethan’s friends haven’t forgotten him, though. Zack, 18, and Daniel, 17, got a bunch of their old kindergarten classmates together to plan this year’s Eighth Night for Ethan. The annual event helps raise money for Ethan’s ongoing medical expenses.
“Our moms were talking about the event, and Zack and I were like, ‘Hey why don’t we plan it?’” Daniel said. “It’s like the least we can do honestly.”
Ethan’s old kindergarten friends now attend seven different high schools. They structured the event as a Battle of the Schools with each high school team competing to raise the most money.
There also is a team named for Rockwern Academy, the Jewish day school that was known as Yavneh Day School when Ethan and his friends attended kindergarten and elementary school there. The students encourage any family that wants to donate -- but doesn’t have an affiliation with one of the high schools -- to give in Rockwern’s name because that’s where all the friends met.
Ethan’s parents were touched when they heard that Zack and Daniel wanted to plan the fundraiser.
“It was such a beautiful testament of their long-standing friendship that they would want to take on something so large as this,” said Ethan’s mom, Alexia Kadish.
The idea behind Eighth Night for Ethan, which started the year Ethan got hurt, is for families to take the money they would normally spend on gifts for the eighth night of Hanukkah and instead donate it to help with Ethan’s medical expenses.
Ethan’s friends are hoping to raise $40,000 through Eighth Night for Ethan, which would be the most the annual event has ever raised.
The winner will be announced at the Eighth Night for Ethan celebration to be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 19 at Rockdale Temple. There will be arts and crafts, a candle lighting and dessert, and families will be able to donate at the event, too.
The school that raises the most money will be announced that night, too.
“It’s all about coming together for Ethan,” said Daniel, who is a senior at Wyoming High School.
“We’re all competing for the same cause, and that cause happens to be a great one,” added Zack, a senior at Sycamore High School. “He truly deserves all the help.”
The help means even more coming from Ethan’s friends, said Ethan’s dad, Scott Kadish.
“It’s been difficult for Ethan’s peer group to make a connection with Ethan these last four years,” he said. “There’s no way for them to be involved in Ethan’s life. But for them to want to do this and be involved in this way is very meaningful.”
The whole Kadish family plans to be at the Eighth Night celebration, and Zack and Daniel said they’re looking forward to seeing Ethan there.
“Whenever I’m with him, he laughs a lot,” Daniel said.
And in that way, he and Zack said, being friends with Ethan hasn’t changed a bit.
More information about this year’s Eighth Night for Ethan celebration is available online .
Online donations can be made here .
WCPO reporter Lucy May and WCPO photojournalist Emily Maxwell are following the progress of Ethan Kadish as he continues to recover from being struck by lightning on June 29, 2013. For more of their stories, go to wcpo.com/ethan .