If all goes as planned, Lily Hoberman will likely be at services Friday night (July 5) at Congregation Shaare Emeth with her parents, Jason and Michelle, and her siblings. They will be there not only to pray for Lily’s continued healing, but also to “express our appreciation for the community’s continued support as well as your prayers,” according to her parents.
Lily was one of three children who sustained injuries Saturday afternoon when a lightning bolt hit the sports field of Union for Reform Judaism Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI), in Zionsville, Ind., a northwest suburb of Indianapolis. According to her parents, thanks to the swift response of GUCI’s camp counselors and staff, “they literally saved her life,” says Michelle Hoberman, who spoke to the Light Tuesday as she and her husband were driving Lily back to St. Louis.
“One young man, a wilderness specialist at the camp from Pittsburgh, administered CPR and shocked Lily back to life. He was the angel who saved her,” she said. “Another young man from Cincinnati, Ohio, a college student, was there to assist him.
“Without those first responders, without those counselors, the result would not have been the same,” Michelle Hoberman adds. “They were trained so well. I am so happy that we got to meet the people who saved our children.”
The Hobermans, along with the parents of the other two campers who were injured, the Auerbachs of Louisville, Ky. and the Kadishes of Cincinnati, issued a joint statement thanking camp counselors and staff. “Their extensive training and the camp’s preparedness allowed them to be life savers when the urgent need arose. The way in which URJ quickly responded by bringing together the support staff and senior leadership was phenomenal and we are grateful for them for maintaining the safety and security of our children and for other concerned campers.”
At about 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Lily was playing Ultimate Frisbee on the camp’s athletic field along with Noah Auerbach, 9, and Ethan Kadish, 12 the two other campers who were injured. Without any warning — by all accounts the skies over the camp were blue — a lightning bolt struck; it is unclear whether the bolt struck the children directly or struck within feet of the children. All three eventually were admitted to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
Lily was admitted to intensive care, but later was listed in stable condition and was released from the hospital Monday. Noah was released Sunday night. Ethan remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition. His family has set up a website at www.caringbridge.org/visit/ethankadish for family and friends who want to be in touch and to receive updates.
Michelle Hoberman said her husband was flying back from a business trip Saturday, after his flight had been canceled Friday, when she learned what had happened. “I called my dad to come over (to take care of her younger children, ages 4 and 7), jumped into the car to pick up my husband as he landed at the airport and we drove directly to the hospital,” she says, adding that camp staff did a phenomenal job being with Lily and calming her until she and her husband arrived. Even then, she said, they were floored by GUCI’s compassion and caring.
“I felt like Lily was in very good hands,” she said. “Multiple people stayed with her everyday.”
The Hobermans, along with the Auerbachs and Kadishes, are setting up the Miracle Kids Medical and Rescue Fund at GUCI to be used to support continued training and provide medical equipment and supplies to insure the future health of all campers. She suggests anyone who wants to help support the families consider a donation to the fund (check back at stljewishlight.com for details as they become available).
As for Lily’s current health, the Hobermans note they have some concerns but are hopeful that she will make a full recovery. Michelle adds, “Lily’s spirit is beautiful and she still is Lily.”
Cheryl Mayaan, head of the Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School, where Lily will be a fourth grader, describes the little girl as a bright spot on a cloudy day. “The whole Mirowitz community is filled with concern and well wishes for Lily,” says Mayaan. “Lily is a warm, vivacious girl with an unwavering optimistic outlook on life. Everyone who knows her feels confident that she will find something positive in this traumatic experience. She and her family are the kindest, most lovely people and are beloved by the whole community.”
As for Lily, well, she was eager to get back to St. Louis to play with her friends. But she does want to return to GUCI next summer for the two weeks of sleep-away camp that was, unfortunately, cut short.
“She does understand that this was a freakish thing that isn’t likely to ever happen again,” says Michelle.