Four years ago, Team Yachad was formed with just 29 excited participants in the ING Miami Half-Marathon to provide funds and awareness for the vital work of Yachad: promoting Inclusion for those living with disabilities within the broad Jewish community. Eagerly anticipating the finish line of this year’s race -- to be held on Sunday, January 27 -- are the 180 members of Team Yachad 2013 (including 10 individuals with disabilities, five of whom are returning team members).
Yachad/the Natioinal Jewish Council for Disabilties (NJCD), an agency of the Orthodox Union, is dedicated to enhancing the opportunities of individuals with disabilities, promoting Inclusion and independence through various integrated activities and ensuring their participation in the full spectrum of Jewish life.
“The participation of Team Yachad within the ING Miami Half-Marathon has become a very important fundraiser for Yachad, which provides much-needed scholarships to our Yachad members, children and adults with disabilities – and yet, Team Yachad has become much more than that,” noted Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, national director of Yachad/NJCD.
Taking the Team Yachad motto “Running Hand in Hand” to a new level, Team Yachad consists of 26 partnerships consisting of Yachad members, peers, parents and children, siblings, couples, and colleagues created to encourage each other in training and on the day of the big race as they run, walk or jog to the finish line.
“Team Yachad has become one of the exciting focal points of our program year -- a time when individuals from all parts of the Yachad family come together, from Yachad members to IVDU school teachers and students, parents, and Yachad national and local staff,” stated Dr. Lichtman. “This weekend is a time they all come together to spend a magnificent weekend b’yachad (together, united) embracing the magic of Yachad and celebrating drive, determination, important physical activity, and so much more. That is what Yachad is all about -- empowerment and on-going growth individually and together b'yachad! We hope that Team Yachad will continue to grow and that next year we will have even more runners, especially more Yachad members running.”
Team members from across the United States and Canada, ages 14-61, will come together for an inspiring and energizing Shabbat experience, shared with 300 friends and family, before the big day. Additionally, volunteers from South Florida Yachad chapters in Boca Raton and Miami Beach will be working the ING water station at Mile 11 to cheer on race participants.
Members of Team Yachad come from: California, Canada, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.
Each participant has committed to raising $3,000 for Yachad/NJCD. By committing to the mission, runners raise much-needed funds which allow Yachad to continue its vital work. In return, Yachad provides roundtrip airfare to Miami; hotel accommodations; a personalized training regimen offered by three certified trainers; official Team Yachad race gear; guaranteed race admission; a pre-race pasta party and post-race BBQ; and an unforgettable weekend at the beautiful Marco Polo Beach Resort.
“Preparing for the ING Half-Marathon as a member of Team Yachad has required teamwork, dedication, commitment, and discipline,” Dr. Lichtman explained. Participating has provided a sense of Inclusion in something much bigger than any one person can do individually, and has promoted a sense of accomplishment and achievement. It has given each individual an opportunity to say, ‘Yes, I can’ instead of ‘No, I can’t.’”
A group of family members and friends have decided to run together with Yachad under the name "Team L'Chaim (To Life)" to celebrate and honor the memory of Chaim Feigenbaum a”h, a young father from Teaneck, NJ who passed away in May. Yachad Assistant Director Eli Hagler will be running with Team Yachad 2013 for his second year, and as part of Team L’Chaim.
“Chaim believed that every Jewish soul is important and must be cherished, especially those who are less fortunate than others, such as those with disabilities. He and his family epitomize strength of character and faith and we hope to honor Chaim's memory by running for this wonderful and important cause,” Hagler shared. “Team L’Chaim began as three friends running in Chaim’s memory and has grown into a 20-member strong unit including Chaim’s wife, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends. To date, we have already surpassed our collective fundraising goal and already raised more than $64,000 for Yachad.”
“It is incredible to see how Team Yachad consists of so many of the participants from the various Yachad events throughout the year -- ranging from the individuals with disabilities and their family members, as well as their high school peers -- all coming together to run in support of Inclusion and to give back to Yachad, an organization that they have gained so much from,” Yachad’s Special Events Coordinator Sara Pollak said.
Team IVDU, three boys with a range of disabilities, will be participating in the Half-Marathon as another of the partnerships within Team Yachad. Hebrew for “work,” IVDU is also the name of the Marilyn David IVDU Upper School, located in Brooklyn, NY, where students learn and experience new things each and every day, and are provided with the academic and social capacity to grow, succeed, and eventually make a positive impact in the community.
J.J. Goldstein, a 17-year-old with Down’s Syndrome from Woodmere, N.Y., was Team Yachad’s top fundraiser last year, raising more than $16,000. A Yachad member since he was eight years old, Yachad is a cause that is so important to J.J. that it has inspired him to return to the team along with his father, Stan, and brother-in-law Judah Gomberg. To date, “Team Goldstein” has already raised more than $8,000 this year.
According to Eli Hagler, the largest growth in communal representation this year comes from Los Angeles. “Last year, there were four members of Team Yachad from LA. Under the leadership of Ian Lurie, director of LA Yachad, who will be running in Miami along with his wife, Sharona, they will be joined with 20 others from the community.”
Sponsors of Team Yachad include: Junee and Junee Jr., Meridian Capital Group, Five Star Caterers, The Jewish Press, Building Blocks Magazine, The Marco Polo Hotel and Resort and Pace 4 Success.
OU | Enhancing Jewish Life