Rosenweig bike 298.88.
(photo credit: Vardit Gilor)
The Ramat Gan-based Israel Sport Center for the Disabled (ILAN) received a boost last week thanks to a new fundraising initiative in which 75 riders took part in a four-day, 350-kilometer-long charity bike ride from September 3-6, raising more than $25,000 in the process.
The majority of the participants - who toured the center of the country from Jerusalem to Ramat Gan via Beersheba, Arad and Ein Gedi - were Israeli. There was a wide range of abilities, from experienced long-distance riders to first-timers. While most riders cycled alone, a small number rode together on tandems, allowing for partially sighted participants to take part.
The bike ride was the first of its kind for ILAN and was inspired by the similar annual event organized by the ALYN children's hospital.
The idea came from Bruce Rosenzweig, an American businessman and long-standing friend of ILAN who had been involved in various fundraising activities for the center since he first came into contact with it in 1982.
Rosenzweig, reflecting on the event, spoke of the "tremendous camaraderie" that existed between all the riders. "Everyone," he continued, "is looking forward to next year."
ILAN, which was founded in 1961, aims to help disabled Israelis integrate into society through their participation in sport. Every day, between 200 and 400 disabled people, mostly children, make use of ILAN's facilities. In total, about 2,500 people benefit from the center each year.
The center's sheer size and the need for special equipment creates a monetary challenge. The center receives just one percent of its funding from the government. The other 99% comes from fundraising that takes place mostly outside of Israel and particularly in the United States.
Moshe Rashkes, chairman of the center, gives the example of a pair of sneakers for a non-disabled athlete. "All you need to run is a pair of trainers, and they cost something like $50," he said. "A racing wheelchair costs $2,500."
Similarly, while a regular bicycle costs in the region of NIS 1,000, a disabled-friendly hand-bike costs NIS 10,000.
Aside from equipment, ILAN incurs costs that other sports centers avoid. The center's staff comprises 100 part-time and full-time trainers.
Many of the activities, in particular those that are water-based, require one-on-one contact between a staff member and a participant.
These one-on-one workers are required to be graduates of the Wingate Institute, Israel's prestigious National Center for Physical Education and Sport.
Another example, given by Rashkes, is that disabled people require warmer water when they go swimming.
All of these considerations increase costs compared to sports centers for the public at large.