Thank you to the Cleveland Jewish News for this wonderful story as I get ready to travel to Ohio this weekend to work with Cleveland...
A special thanks to Paula Tutman and WDIV Local 4 for their interest in the work of Achilles International as they begin working with the...
Richard Bernstein is no stranger to tough situations. As someone who is visually impaired, he’s had to face numerous challenges in life–challenges that might make...
New Running Club Trains Kids with Special Needs for Marathon
Metro Parent: Parent Pipeline
By Jennifer Sullivan
From the moment they crossed the finish line, it was apparent: they were athletes.
They may have disabilities, everything from attention deficit disorder to autism – but from this moment on, they’re athletes.
On Sunday, April 29, about 20 kids with special needs and their volunteer partners took to a nature trail in West Bloomfield and started training for a marathon. That’s right, a marathon. The two-mile walk/run was not only the first of many training sessions, it marked the official kick-off of the new Michigan chapter of the Achilles Track Club.
Since 1983, the New York based organization has encouraged people with disabilities worldwide to participate in mainstream athletics, including full marathons.
The organization’s founder, Dick Traum, ran his first marathon in 1976, and was the first person to every run such an event with an artificial leg. After continuously coming in last, he set out to recruit others with disabilities. The organization now has chapters all over the world, including Michigan, thanks to local attorney Richard Bernstein.
Bernstein, who has been visually impaired since birth, became involved with the Achilles Track Club three years ago during one of his many visits to the Big Apple.
He began training with a volunteer guide, and has since completed six marathons.
“It literally changed my life,” the 33-year old says.
Wanting folks in his home state to have the same opportunities, he convinced Traum to open a chapter in Michigan.
The Michigan chapter of the Achilles Club has partnered with West Bloomfield’s Friendship Circle, an organization that provides support and assistance to families with special needs children.
The program is open to all Michigan residents ages 12 and up, regardless of their disability or athletic ability, says Friendship Circle co-founder Bassie Sherntov. High school and adult volunteers are also needed, as each athlete is paired up with a training partner.
Bernstein knows first hand how difficult life can be with a disability, but says if kids can work through the struggles, pain and hardship of a marathon – 26.2 miles – it will transform their lives.
“What these kids will realize is that there isn’t anything they won’t be able to achieve, or anything they won’t be able to do,” Bernstein says.
Bernstein encourages everyone – even those with wheelchairs, crutches or canes – to participate.
“Achilles will find a way to make it work,” Bernstein says. “There’s no one who isn’t able to be a part of the Achilles experience.”
The Achilles Track Club meets at 9 am every Sunday at the West Bloomfield Woods Nature Preserve located off of Arrowhead Road, just south of Pontiac Trail. Its first goal is the 5K “Walk4Friendship Walkathon” in September, which benefits children with special needs.
To learn more about the Achilles Track Club, visit www.achillestrackclub.org or contact Miriam Marcus at 248-788-7878 ext. 209.
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