Last Thursday morning, ADI, Israel’s network of specialized rehabilitative care for individuals and families touched by and living with severe disabilities, hosted its Second Annual “Race for Inclusion,” aptly dubbed “a celebration of ability at every level.” The 2.5K fun run drew more than 400 North American gap year and college students and raised more than $17,000 to enhance the care of ADI’s residents and special education students.
ADI provides its residents and special education students with the individualized growth plans and specialized services they need to grow and thrive, its rehabilitation patients with the treatments and therapies they need to heal and return to their lives, and the community at large with tangible opportunities for encountering disability, raising awareness and promoting acceptance.
As the race began, the 160 participants of JNF-USA’s Alternative Winter Break led the pack along a fully-accessible track that encircled ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran, the renowned 40-acre rehabilitation village.
Following close behind were many of ADI’s international and National Service volunteers, and gap year students studying at Israeli yeshivot and seminaries, including Mechinat Ruach HaNegev, Torah Tech, Tiferet, Yeshivat Ashreinu, Machon Maayan, Amudim, Aish Gesher Women and Midreshet AMIT.
Tens of ADI residents and special education students met the throngs of runners at the finish line to complete the race together in the spirit of inclusion, friendship, and acceptance.
“Discussing disability inclusion, equity and access is essential, but we can’t rely on dialogue alone to encourage our future leaders to promote social change,” said Elie Klein, ADI’s Director of Development for the USA and Canada. “That’s why we developed an event that allows gap year and college students to live and breathe true inclusion in a way that will inspire them to make it a reality,”
“At the starting line, these young altruists may see the event as just another race and simply hope to take great strides to empower others. But when they cross the finish line with people using walkers and wheelchairs and experience next-level joy while singing and dancing with our ADI residents and special education students with severe disabilities, everything comes into focus. There is a realization that celebrating ability at every level enhances our collective lives and makes us stronger as a society, and these newly minted agents of change pledge to do their part to make true inclusion the new normal,” Klein said.
“Winning a medal definitely came as a surprise to me, but I was even more amazed by how the event’s inclusive atmosphere made me feel,” said Second place finisher Ben Hadad from Fort Lauderdale, FL. “When my peers and I were dancing and singing with the ADI residents, I felt truly happy. I wasn’t focusing on how sad it was that these children had to live with disabilities, instead, I was elated that they were receiving so much love that they were always smiling. That was eye-opening for me.”
Yakira Colish, an intern at ADI Jerusalem from Long Beach, NY, said, “It’s been incredibly meaningful volunteering at ADI week after week and experiencing firsthand how love stems from giving. When I heard that the funds raised from this amazing event would help secure equipment that would save and enhance lives, I knew that I needed to encourage my family and friends to spread the love by lending their support.”
“Having been a part of the ADI family for several months now, I knew that this event was going to be extraordinary, but the enthusiasm from the hundreds of students in attendance really took it to the next level. Still, my ultimate highlight was the hug I received from a young resident after crossing the finish line. It touched me deeply and reinforced why I need to continue my involvement with this incredible organization for years to come,” Colish said.