Preschool marks Mitzvah day with trike race

Decked out in helmets and protective padding, students at the Burbank Temple Emanu El Preschool pedaled with fury Wednesday, racing their tricycles to benefit children being treated at two local Providence medical centers.

“They need to learn to give as well as to receive,” said school director Carol Miller. “We teach them that it is important to be part of the community and to help other people. And they are old enough to learn that.”

Funds raised during the annual Mitzah Day Trike-a-thon event are donated to a different charity each year, Miller said. This year, the money went to the Jester and Pharley Phund, an organization that donates the popular children’s book “The Jester Has Lost His Jingle” and accompanying jester doll to hospitalized children.

Books and dolls raised during the trike-a-thon were going to Providence St. Joseph’s Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center in Burbank, and the pediatrics unit of Providence Tarzana Medical Center.


“They are learning at a young age to give to anyone in need, and in this case the recipient is a Catholic organization,” said hospital spokeswoman Patricia Aidem.

Participants ranging in age from 2 to 5 were responsible for drumming up sponsors, who donated a set dollar amount for each lap completed. As the cyclists circled the makeshift track, they noted their laps by adding a sticker to their name tags.

Also there for the race was Barbara Saltzman, director of the Jester and Pharley Phund and mother of the late David Saltzman, the author of “The Jester Has Lost His Jingle.”

David Saltzman was still an undergraduate at Yale when he wrote and illustrated the story. But he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma before he could secure a publisher, dying at age 22 in March 1990.


Barbara Saltzman unsuccessfully pitched the manuscript to several publishing companies before mortgaging her house to cover the costs herself. The book was released in 1995 and quickly became a hit, earning a spot on the New York Times bestsellers list.

“The Jester Has Lost His Jingle” is about the good-natured Jester and his loyal companion Pharley, who set out to restore a sense of humor to the world.

“David didn’t write the book for children who are sick, but it has great resonance with anyone who is going through a difficult time,” Barbara Saltzman said.

In 2000, she established the Jester and Pharley Phund, which has taken her to schools, hospitals and shelters across the country. She did an emotive reading of the book at Burbank Temple Emanu El Preschool, leaving her audience in fits and giggles.

“What I love is it is children helping children,” Barbara Saltzman said at the trike-a-thon. “I think it is fantastic.”