Following months of postponements and uncertainties, the 10th annual Jerusalem Marathon returned in grand fashion on Friday, October 29, and the staff, volunteers and supporters of ADI (adi-israel.org), Israel’s most comprehensive provider of residential and rehabilitative care for individuals with severe disabilities, came out in droves to celebrate the abilities of its residents and highlight the importance of disability inclusion, equity and access.
While ‘ADI Fleet,’ the organization’s inclusive running team, tore up the 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon tracks, 30 fully vaccinated ADI Jerusalem residents pounded the pavement at the 800-meter ‘Communities Track,’ pushing their limits in specially-made walkers to show that disability doesn’t mean inability.
“It was thrilling to be back at the Jerusalem Marathon after all this time and so moving to see that the same pandemic that kept us all apart is now bringing us back together. Our ADI residents have always felt welcome at this wonderful event, but it’s clear that the last two years have made people more caring and compassionate than ever before,” said Shlomit Grayevsky, Director of ADI Jerusalem.
“This year, the ‘Communities Track’ took on a whole new meaning, and we all reveled in the feeling of community throughout the day. It was gratifying to see our ADI staff and volunteers lead the charge for true inclusion, and heartening to see our residents being cheered on by city officials, celebrities and supporters from across the country.”
The light-footed members of ADI Fleet included ADI staff and volunteers, young men and women on gap year programs, and parents and siblings of ADI residents and special education students. At the head of the pack was 55-year old Aryeh Holtz, a father of three and mechanical engineer from Jerusalem, who ran the 10K while pushing his daughter, Leah, an ADI Jerusalem special education student, in a running stroller that he made from scratch.
“I have been running the 10K at the Jerusalem Marathon for years, and I’ve always wanted to run it with Leah, but I didn’t have the right stroller, and I wasn’t sure if she would enjoy it. But after building an all-terrain stroller with the correct support, I started training with her, and it was clear that Leah loved it as much as I did,” explained Holtz, a native of Washington Heights, New York. “While it might seem counterintuitive, running is an activity that we can do together, and it brings us closer.”
“The ADI staff and volunteers have been very helpful, and we’re so happy to have great partners in Leah’s development, so it just seemed natural to tackle the 10K track as members of ADI Fleet. Leah’s twin sister, Miri, also ran with us, so it was a fun and meaningful family affair.”
In the end, Holtz completed the challenging 10K track in 1:02:38. “Leah beat me by a second,” joked the proud father.