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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Team Yachad’

Finish Line (Conclusion)

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

At certain points in each of our lives, we are given challenges – some big, some small. Some people embrace it, welcoming every chance they get to grow and mature, while others are deathly afraid of any sort of change in their blissful, comfortable routine.

I was given many challenges over the past year and a half, none of which I would have ever chosen to face had I been given the choice. But as we face the challenges head-on that come our way and overcome them, we grow and become better, wiser and more understanding people. Our struggles are what make us who we are and determine how we relate to others. And hopefully, we can look back at our challenges and appreciate the level of trust God has in us to overcome them.

Regardless of the painful experiences I was dealing with, there was one challenge that I took on with anticipation and determination. Running a half-marathon – 13.1 miles – is not something I ever thought I would do, yet that’s exactly what I did this past January in Miami Beach. Along with 134 other members of Team Yachad, I ran in support of Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities.

My adventure started about six months ago in a New Jersey high school with my first meeting with some of the dedicated staff members and runners. I also met with Coach Jasmine (“Jaz”) Graham, who patiently answered every question I threw at her, and who provided me with my very own training regimen to fit my schedule.

Training for the half-marathon was a challenge I both dreaded and looked forward to. Unfortunately I have never before been able to incorporate regular fitness into my daily routine, as there never seemed to be enough time in the day to get to the gym or enough energy to hit the treadmill. Training with Yachad was the motivation I needed to start moving, and thus began my personal journey to fitness, awareness, and self-discovery.

Team Yachad 2012

I was extremely self-conscious the first time I went running. I kept looking around to see if there was anybody that I knew, and comparing my speed with the numerous other people who were running through the park. At the end of my run, I was both exhausted and exhilarated. The fact that I was able to run the few miles, despite never accomplishing this before, gave me an enormous feeling of pride. I felt like I wanted to do this every single day.

That feeling lasted about 10 or 12 hours – until every bone in my body began to ache and bring me pain. Yet the incredible rush that running gave me motivated me to continue, and I was determined to support and run along with Team Yachad in the half-marathon. Running gave me an opportunity to be alone with my thoughts, to clear my head, and to escape (at least for that hour or so) the chaos that was going on in my personal life. Something about the fresh air, the rhythmic sound of my feet hitting the pavement, and the peace and quiet through the park was soothing. It was exactly what I needed at that point in my life.

After a few weeks of training, I began to notice a change in myself, both during my workout and in general. I was feeling more confident, more sure of my abilities and myself. I ran with better posture, I wasn’t comparing myself to the other runners in the park, and I felt like I could do anything. I never realized the impact that the training alone would have on my life.

After several months and a few bumps along the road, including a bad fall and a torn ligament, I finally arrived in Miami Beach for the Yachad marathon weekend. The Shabbaton was incredible, and I met many special people during my trip. The marathon itself was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will stay with me forever. The incredibly gratifying feeling of satisfaction and pride after finishing the race with Team Yachad is indescribable. It was also quite inspirational to see the display of unity, the inclusion of every single person – including 15 runners with disabilities – and the dedication each runner displayed toward Yachad and each other.

Looking back, I am honored to have been part of such a moving experience. It was humbling to meet Yachad’s special people, along with its staff, members, volunteers, and everyone who participated in the event. I still continue to run when I can, feeling much more secure and comfortable when I do. Yachad has influenced my life in many ways, and inspired me to take on something I never thought I could do. For those feelings alone, I am truly grateful.

The Amazing Race (Part III)

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

As some of you may know, either through my previous articles, numerous online posts, or non-stop chatter about the topic, I recently had the pleasure of attending Yachad’s marathon weekend event in Miami Beach, Florida. I was invited to participate in this incredible experience, both as a writer and as a runner, and to feel firsthand what the words unity, commitment, dedication, and inspiration truly mean.

It all started three years ago when Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, put together a team of 29 runners to participate in the ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon, with the goal of raising much-needed funds for this incredible organization. The following year, that number doubled, with 77 runners committing to and running the marathon. This year was their most successful one yet, with 135 runners fundraising, training for, and running 13.1 or 26.2 miles, all with the same goal: to help Yachad continue their dedicated work of enhancing the life opportunities of individuals with disabilities, and ensuring their participation in the full spectrum of Jewish life.

My experience with Yachad began well before the actual marathon, dating back about six months or so when I first signed up to join the team. After my initial meeting with some of the dedicated staff members and runners in a New Jersey high school, I attended a couple of training sessions with Coach Jasmine (“Jaz”) Graham, who patiently answered every question I threw at her, and who provided me with my very own training regimen to fit my schedule.

Team Yachad 2012

After months of training and hard work, I hopped on a plane from rainy New York City to beautiful, sunny Miami Beach. The weekend began with the entire group meeting on Friday and registering for the race at the Miami Beach Convention Center, which was packed with booths, vendors, visitors and excited runners who were gearing up for Sunday’s race. After that, it was off to the beautiful Newport Beachside Resort in Sunny Isles, Florida on a chartered bus, followed by a lovely Friday afternoon lunch.

Then it was off to our hotel rooms to get ready for Shabbos. Walking into the beautiful room that the staff at Yachad had prepared, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a travel bag waiting for me, filled with goodies like snacks, drinks, health items, orange Team Yachad T-shirts, headbands, and several other surprises. On the bag were two tags; one had my name with the title “runner,” the other had my three-year-old daughter’s name with “fan club” underneath. It seemed like Yachad had taken care of every detail – from the couch-bed pulled out and made up for my daughter, to the many bottles of Gatorade that were provided for us even before the actual race.

It has been quite a number of years since I’ve attended summer camp, but that’s exactly what Shabbos with Yachad felt like. From the beautiful Friday night davening, to the heartfelt singing at the Shabbos table, to the warm feeling of unity that was felt throughout the entire Shabbos, from beginning to end. Many of the runners were high school students who are connected to or involvedwith Yachad and are tremendous supporters of its work. Other runners included college students, grad students, and professionals who took time off of work to support Team Yachad. Others were staff members from different branches of the Orthodox Union throughout the country, and came with their families, some even recruiting their spouse to run right along with them. However they got there or whatever their motivation, every member of Team Yachad contributed to the Shabbaton and to the entire weekend in their own unique way – helping make it as special as it was.

Shabbos afternoon consisted of a beautiful Shabbos lunch, followed by a chance for everyone to enjoy the boardwalk, the beach, or to simply rest. Right after shalosh seudos, everyone gathered in a circle to sing Shabbos zemiros as a group. This was followed by one of my personal highlights of the weekend: a question-and-answer session with Richard Bernstein. Bernstein, 37, is blind since birth, and ran with Team Yachad for the first time in this year’s ING Miami Marathon. He has completed 15 marathons – including seven NYC Marathons, the Ironman Triathlon and the Israman Triathlon. An attorney, he is a tireless advocate for disabled rights and was so excited to run as part of Yachad, an organization that works hard at enhancing the life opportunities of individuals with disabilities, the very same mission to which he has devoted his life. It was a privilege to hear him speak and to have him share inspiration with the entire team.

Another inspirational moment for me came at the end of Shabbos, during Havdalah. As many of the team members were teenagers, I expected them all to race out of the shul the minute Shabbos was over and head straight toward their cell phones/laptops/iPods/cameras/iPads, etc. Much to my surprise, Havdalah was a lengthy and very beautiful ritual that I don’t normally have the pleasure to witness. When it was over, the kids started singing, “Six more days ‘till Shabbos…” and formed a circle, singing and dancing as if they didn’t want Shabbos to end. It was incredibly inspiring.

Running For A Cause (Part II)

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

On a cold, rainy morning in late October, a group of people of various ages, places, and points in their lives gather together in Central Park to train for an upcoming marathon. It is Sunday morning, the weather is miserable, and most people would rather be in bed. Yet this particular group is not deterred by the rain or anything else, for they have a goal and are determined to reach that goal – no matter what it takes.

These runners are just a small part of a group of incredible people who together comprise Team Yachad – a group put together by Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities – who will be running in this year’s ING Marathon and Half Marathon in Miami Beach, Florida on January 29. Yachad is an organization dedicated to addressing the needs of people with disabilities, and including them in the Jewish community. The goal of Team Yachad is to raise much-needed funds for this very worthwhile organization, with each team member committing to raise money in order to be on the team.

Included in the race package is a trip to Miami, accommodations, and a Shabbaton with the entire team at Newport Beach Resort and Spa. The team members will also receive customized training regimens from Team Yachad’s coach, Jasmine “Jaz” Graham, an RRCA certified training coach, who works with the runners both as a group and individually to prepare for the marathon. This is Yachad’s third consecutive year running in the ING Miami Marathon, and at 135 runners from all over the country it promises to be their biggest and best race to date.

Eliana Shields of Baltimore participated in last year’s marathon. She had heard about the marathon from a friend who was also running, and as someone who was very involved with Yachad of Baltimore, she felt privileged to be part of something amazing. “Yachad has given me more than I have given to them,” she says. “I am so grateful to them for all the fantastic work that they do, and feel privileged to have been a part of such an incredible experience.” Eliana has also kept up her running. It is a big part of her life now, and she is currently running a 5K in Baltimore. Yachad has affected her life in more ways than one.

Aaron Winston, a Yachad member from Dallas, Texas, also ran in last year’s marathon. “Running with Yachad strengthened my belief in humanity and in God,” he tells me. “Seeing all the people running together for a single cause showed me an incredible togetherness that cannot be found anywhere else. Yachad is a great organization, and the marathon is the pinnacle of what Yachad stands for.”

Also involved with the marathon, although she does not actually run in the race, is Nicole Bodner, program director for Yachad NY. She does, however, run the show. For the past two years, Nicole has been coordinating and overseeing parts of the event. “It’s been an incredible experience,” she says. “Being a part of this marathon is so inspiring, and it’s amazing to be on the other side and facilitate such an unbelievable event that so many people are a part of. The environment in the room is simply indescribable and it’s amazing to see so many people feel so passionately about a cause that I myself am so passionate about. There is nothing like it.”

You too can be a part of Yachad. Whether it’s sponsoring a particular runner or making a general donation to Yachad, every contribution is appreciated. Visit www.teamyachad.com for more information and to view a full list of runners. Yachad – together – we can make a difference!

Shaindy Urman is a freelance writer and editor living in Brooklyn. She can be reached at shaindy@jewishpress.com. Shaindy will be running with Team Yachad this year in the ING Miami Marathon. To sponsor Shaindy and donate to a great cause, visit her page, www.teamyachad.com/shaindy. All proceeds, no matter the sum, go to benefit Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities.

Starting Line (Part I)

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

It was a lovely Sunday afternoon in the park when I bumped into a friend whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. After the obligatory pleasantries were exchanged, she tentatively asked me if something was wrong with my health. “No,” I responded, confused. “I’m doing better than ever.”

“So what’s wrong?” she asked. “Have you lost your job?”

“No, not at all! Where are you getting this from?” I asked.

“Everything okay with the family?” she asked. “How is everybody doing?”

“Honey, everything’s great,” I assured her. “What makes you think something’s wrong?”

“To be honest,” she responded, “you look terrible! You’re covered in sweat, you can barely breathe, you look like you haven’t showered in a week, and you lost a lot of weight. So I just assumed something must be wrong.” I laughed and looked down at my soak-stained T-shirt. “Of course I look terrible,” I told her. “I’m in the middle of a workout.”

I’ve been called many things in my life – but a runner is certainly not one of them. I run to catch the bus, I run after my toddler, and, like everybody else, I run after the occasional ice cream truck. But to purposely run for the sake of working out? Well, that goes against everything I stand for!

It was for this very reason that nobody believed I would be running a half-marathon this coming January in beautiful Miami Beach. My friends told me that I can’t just pull an “April Fools” in the middle of October, my parents laughed, and my 3-year-old simply asked, “Mommy, where are you running? To the manicure store before they close?”

But the truth is that I committed to running this marathon for a great cause. Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, is an organization that is dedicated to addressing the needs of people with disabilities and including them in the Jewish community. This year, for the third consecutive year, Yachad has put together a team of runners from all over the country to compete in the ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon in January 2012. Each team member commits to raising a set amount of money and, in exchange, they get an all-expense paid trip to Miami, including accommodations, airfare, and entrance into the race.

As much as the next person, I love pushing myself to the extreme and working my knees till they bleed. But nonetheless, I must honestly say that my intentions are completely pure, and I have no ulterior motives for doing this. I am certainly not doing it for the Miami trip, or the beautiful sunshine in the dead of winter, or the Shabbaton, weekend and parties. Not me! I’m the type of person that will travel all the way down to Florida, eat as much sushi as they stuff down my throat, meet as many amazing people as they force me to meet (and on top of it all, get in the best shape of my life) – all for the selfless act of raising money for a good cause.

And so, being the selfless person that I am, I invite all of you to share in my one-of-a-kind experience, and run with Team Yachad this coming January. If you can’t join personally, any and all donations are always appreciated. Visit www.teamyachad.com to check out all the runners and sponsor someone, or sign up and check out all the great things included in the trip. Get ready for the most amazing, fulfilling and rewarding experience of your life. See you there!

Shaindy Urman is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. She can be reached at shaindy@jewishpress.com.

Shaindy will be running with Team Yachad this year in the ING Miami Marathon. To sponsor Shaindy and donate to a great cause, visit her page, www.teamyachad.com/shaindy. All proceeds, no matter the sum, go to benefit Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/starting-line-part-i/2011/12/22/

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