Vancouverite Vida Sussman (centre) was among those who pounded the pavement at ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran rehabilitation village to raise disability awareness at ADI’s first annual Race for Inclusion, which took place Dec. 29. (photo from ADI)
On the morning of Dec. 29, following a week of gloomy weather, the clouds gave way to sunshine as ADI, one of Israel’s most comprehensive providers of residential and rehabilitative care for individuals with severe disabilities, hosted its first annual Race for Inclusion. The 2.5-kilometre fun run highlighted the importance of disability inclusion while also raising more than $14,000 US to enhance ADI’s respiratory therapy and hydrotherapy programs.
More than 250 runners of varied ages, backgrounds and levels of ability ran together along a fully-accessible track that encircled ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran, the 25-acre rehabilitation village. This newest iteration of ADI Fleet – the organization’s inclusive running team – featured 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. Among the runners was Vancouverite Vida Sussman, who is studying at Amudim this year.
Elie Klein, ADI’s North American director of development, said, “There is something very special and wonderfully symbolic about others coming to meet our residents and special education students where they are. ADI works so hard to ensure that every man, woman and child has tangible opportunities for encountering disability and promoting acceptance, and moments like these prove that we are on the right track and making serious strides for inclusion.”
At the conclusion of the race, all of the runners gathered in the village’s amphitheatre for a celebration featuring food, live music and speeches from special guests and ADI’s leadership. Three finalists from Israel Ninja Warrior received cheers after calling those assembled “heroic.”
“We thought we were strong,” said Israeli athlete Gur Arad. “But after seeing all of you running together today, we know that you are the strong ones.”
Sussman, one of eight Canadians who participated in the event, also volunteers one day a week at ADI Jerusalem, the organization’s residential and rehabilitative centre in Israel’s capital. She describes the atmosphere as “loving, familial and an incredible learning experience,” noting that she jumped at the opportunity to do more for the organization.
“I feel very lucky to be volunteering at ADI, and I was so excited to participate in the Race for Inclusion. The energy that everyone brought to the event was incredible, and it made me so happy to see all the participants from different levels of ability having so much fun together,” said Sussman.
“This amazing event highlights exactly why supporting ADI is so important to me,” she added. “Not only are they committed to providing the best medical and rehabilitative care for their residents and special education students, but they do everything possible to advocate for them and infuse their lives with joy. I look forward to continuing to be a part of the ADI family and supporting the important work they do for years to come.”
Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Doron Almog, the founder and chair 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.”
“Always remember that we are all just temporary creatures. We come one day and we pass the next, and we need to give meaning to our lives in between. We do that by taking responsibility for one another, especially those with severe disabilities who need extra love and care,” said Almog. “By coming here today to participate in ADI’s Race for Inclusion, you fulfilled the most noble of responsibilities, to truly ‘care for your neighbour as yourself.’”
To learn more about ADI, visit adi-israel.org.
– Courtesy ADI