Jeff Lazar: "He knows what he wants to do and he does it."
An Oak Park teenager is raising thousands of dollars
for muscular dystrophy research.
emember those backyard carni-
vals you created as a kid, playing
with your neighborhood friends
on a lazy summer afternoon?
Perhaps you and your kids now pre-
fer the bigger thrills of carnivals at
shopping centers or something more
on the order of the State Fair.
You're not alone. Oak Park teenager
Jeff Lazar will put on his third annual
carnival next August or September
and turn the thousands of dollars in
profits over to the Muscular
Last September, Jeff coordinated his
second annual carnival for MDA, tur-
ning 12 months of badgering area
merchants, friends, the Crown Pointe
building in Oak Park, city officials
and police into $6,373 for muscular
It was a healthy achievement for a
14-year-old, and follows nearly 10
years of door-to-door collecting for
MDA, standing outside delis near Lin-
coln Center on Greenfield Road and
organizing his two carnivals.
"Jeff is very innovative and deter-
mined," says Kim Sidwell, district di-
rector for MDA. "We give him a few
posters and balloons, but basically he
takes the ball and runs with it."
Running with it last year meant get-
ting permission from the Crown
Pointe owners in New York to use
their parking lot, getting approval
from Oak Park officials and finding
manpower and money — separate from
MDA contributions — to run the car-
It has become a year-round passion
for Jeff, a ninth-grader at Berkley
High School. During the school year,
with the help of his parents, Al and
Sema, he recruits adult volunteers for
his carnival committees. In the
summer, "I start calling sponsors
right after breakfast" and accepts do-
nations in front of area stores in the
Raising money for MDA is not the
only thing in Jeff's life, but it takes a
good deal of his time. He wrestled on
the Berkley team this year until he
suffered an injury and his grades
began to slip. He also babysits for a
Down's Syndrome child and wants to
become a doctor working with han-
dicapped children — "physically han-
dicapped especially, and if it didn't
take too long (for additional studies),
mentally handicapped, too."
Jeff's closest friends, David Silver-
man and Phil Yamron, are 11th
graders at Berkley. The Silvermans
and Lazars met in the hospital when
Jeff was born. The boys have grown up
together in Oak Park.
David, Phil and Jeff's other friends
are involved with the carnival project.
"If he asks, we're here for him," David
The older boys include Jeff in their
plans. "We don't consider him
younger — he's one of us. If we're do-
ing something Friday night we always
ask him. He does everything we do."
The three are members of King AZA.
For the carnival, "my friends pitch
in," Jeff says. "They do their share. I
don't expect them to do what I do, but
in ask them they'll help."
The B'nai B'rith Youth Organiza-
tion played a role in Jeff's work for
MDA. His older brother and sister
were involved in an annual AZA-BBG
softball game to raise funds for MDA
when Jeff was 5. With his parents'
help, he collected $500 in a pail that
he presented at the game.
Sema Lazar describes her youngest
son as sensitive, "in tune with others'
feelings." He has participated with his
AZA chapter in visiting nursing
homes and bowling with senior
citizens. While attending Avery
Elementary, he volunteered with
physically and mentally impaired
youngsters, helping them to and from
their bus and working in their
During the summer, when not
preparing for the carnival, Jeff has
volunteered with the Special Olympics
and at SCAMP (special education
camp). At an MDA workshop for high
school students last year, Jeff served
as a guest speaker and described what
resources are available for MDA fund-
raising. This summer, he plans to
spend a week at an MDA camp north
of Port Huron as a volunteer
For the carnival, Jeff's parents serve
as advisers and supporters, help with
public relations and pay some of the
bills — Jeff's telephone bill for MDA
work in February was $100. For Sema,
it can be frustrating to get people to
respond to hundreds of letters and
phone calls. But it is not frustrating
"Determination and concern are the
words that describe Jeff," says MDA's
Kim Sidwell. "He knows what he
wants to do and he does it."
Says his friend David Silverman,
"Jeff's a good student, a good friend, a
good kid." ❑
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS