Adam Wolf was born prematurely. At birth he suffered a brain hemorrhage. His parents were told he would never hold his head up, talk, or walk.
That was 16 years ago. Last week, as a member of Team Lifeline, which raises money for children’s charity Chai Lifeline, Adam crossed the finish line of the Miami Half Marathon on his own two feet. Surrounded by counselors from Camp Simcha/Camp Simcha Special, Chai Lifeline’s overnight camps for sick children and teens, his mother, and lots of well-wishers, Adam traded his wheelchair for a walker and walked the last 1.1 miles unaided.
The crowd roared as Adam neared the finish line. Other runners slowed their gait, sacrificing their own times, to join the growing crowd singing and chanting “Adam! Adam!” His mother’s eyes filled with tears as she realized that her son, the boy who wasn’t supposed to walk, was about to go through the finish gate.
The mission of Team Lifeline, begun 10 years ago by Chai Lifeline supporter Ari Weinberger, is to raise money for Chai Lifeline, the international children’s organization whose programs help very sick children and their families cope with the crises and challenges of serious pediatric illness. Over the past 10 years, thousands of emerging and veteran athletes have raised more than $13.5 million to support its activities. With more than 450 runners and walkers, it was the largest charity team at the Miami Marathon this year. Chai Lifeline’s executive vice president, Rabbi Simcha Scholar, credits the team with building the fitness level in Jewish communities across the country. But with each mile, Team Lifeline is also raising the spirits and bringing hope to a new subset of athletes: Chai Lifeline’s young athletes and their parents.
This year’s Miami Marathon and Half Marathon delegation was the largest in its history. Among the 450 athletes were a team from Canada and runners from England, Israel, and across the United States. Also included were 30 parents and 12 children and teens who are also campers at Camp Simcha or Camp Simcha Special. (Team Lifeline also fields teams at The Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon and Half Marathon, and the New York City Marathon. Cyclists join the group for America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride in Lake Tahoe.) They were joined by scores of counselors from the camps who raise money to run, walk, and push their campers’ wheelchairs.
Team Lifeline is a chance for parents to thank the organization that has infused their children’s lives with both joy and possibilities. “Kids in wheelchairs don’t have a lot of play dates,” Ali Wolf once said. Camp Simcha Special drove away the boys’ loneliness, providing him with a summer filled with friendship and experiences and a growing group of friends that dispelled isolation all year long.
It’s also a unique opportunity for team members to spend time with the children and families who benefit from Chai Lifeline’s services.
“Honestly, I thought I’d be meeting sad kids,” admitted a runner. “These kids might be sick, but they’re laughing with their counselors and having a great time here.” She pointed to a table filled with counselors and wheelchair-confined runners. “These kids have made real friends at Camp Simcha over the years. They’re not lonely. They don’t need people to pity them. They need people to help them realize their potential.”
Ali Wolf agrees. “What Team Lifeline and Chai Lifeline have given us is beyond words. For Adam to have accomplished such a huge goal is more significant than the medal he received. He now knows he can set high goals and achieve the impossible. All he needed is a little inspiration.”
Team Lifeline is the endurance training program that helps people of all fitness levels and experience get ready to run, walk, or cycle on behalf of the children of Chai Lifeline. Over the past 10 years, thousands of athletes have raised more than $13.5 million for Chai Lifeline. For more information, visit www.teamlifeline.org.
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