Since the Jerusalem Marathon was first run through the hilly streets of Israel’s capital in 2011, representatives of ALEH, which bills itself as the country’s “largest network of facilities for children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities,” have been a presence. As members of Team ALEH, supporters traveled the 26.2-mile course in distinctive bright green T-shirts to raise money and publicity for the organization, then with in a small group of ALEH (ALEH.org) residents who, with aid, “ran” an abbreviated course on race day.
This year, the ALEH kids got more support.
A group of Jerusalem police officers, which will take part in the March 13 race, have visited ALEH’s Jerusalem campus weekly since September, training with the young residents. Training together, the police are preparing their running partners for this year’s race.
About 15 residents will participate over a 500-meter “Community Track,” says Rivki Keesing, an occupational therapist. The police signed on, she says, “because one of the adult resident’s sisters is a policewoman and wanted to get her department involved in a volunteer project with ALEH.”
The police, who are connected to the children in adapted “walking harnesses,” needed their own training — how to work with the residents, how to stand with them and walk with them.
“The policemen come every Sunday for an hour and a half and use apps to measure time, speed and length,” Keesing says. “They have all created special bonds with the residents.”
The first Jerusalem Marathon drew more than 10,000 participants; the number grew last year to more than 25,000, from nearly 60 countries.