Photo Credit: courtesy, ADI
Students from Yeshivat Torat Shraga, Yeshivat Ashreinu and Ruach HaNegev dance and sing with ADI residents and special education students at ADI’s First Annual ‘Race for Inclusion’

Last week after a spate of gloomy weather, the Negev clouds gave way to abundant sunshine as ADI (adi-israel.org), an Israeli provider of residential and rehabilitative care for individuals with severe disabilities, ADI, hosted its First Annual ‘Race for Inclusion.’

The 2.5K run highlighted the importance of disability inclusion while raising more than $14,000 to enhance the organization’s Respiratory Therapy and Hydrotherapy programs.

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More than 250 runners of varied ages, backgrounds and levels of ability ran together along a fully accessible track that encircled the 25-acre ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran rehabilitation village.

Participating in the run were ADI residents, special education students and international volunteers, as well as nearly 180 North American gap year students studying at Israeli yeshivot and seminaries, including Mechinat Ruach HaNegev, Torah Tech, Tiferet, Yeshivat Ashreinu, Yeshivat Torat Shraga, and Amudim.

“From start to finish, every minute of our first ‘Race for Inclusion’ was simply magical,” said Elie Klein, ADI’s North American Director of Development.

“We always talk about the spirit and positivity that pervades our ADI centers, and it was so gratifying to bring these young leaders right into the middle of the action, to welcome them into our family and allow them to further enrich the inclusive atmosphere.”

While the gap year students took every opportunity to meet and connect with the ADI residents and special education students, there was also a competitive element to the race, and medals were awarded to the top three finishers. Ben Roitman, a native of Stamford, Connecticut, who is studying at Torah Tech this year, took home the gold medal and beautiful memories of an unforgettable experience.

“Running can feel overly competitive at times, but ADI’s ‘Race for Inclusion’ was entirely different – it was all about fun and collective pride. The nerves that I usually feel on race day were replaced with a sense of purpose and community. It felt incredible to be part of something so much bigger than myself,” Roitman said.

At the conclusion of the race, all of the runners gathered in the village’s accessible amphitheater for a joyous inclusive celebration.

Major General (Res.) Doron Almog, the Founder and Chairman of ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran, closed out the event by thanking the gap year students for raising disability awareness and encouraging them to continue “carrying the message of inclusion and love.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.