ILAN foundation holds annual March of Dimes

Event raises funds for those with neuromuscular disabilities.

Last year's ILAN March of Dimes event 370  (photo credit: Courtesy ILAN)
Last year's ILAN March of Dimes event 370
(photo credit: Courtesy ILAN)
ILAN – The Israeli Foundation for Handicapped Children, which aims to advance the integration of Israelis with neuromuscular disabilities into society, held its annual “March of Dimes” events on Wednesday.
The fund-raising event, which the organization started back in 1958, is based on that of the American March of Dimes Foundation, which was founded in 1938 to combat polio, and which now works to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.
The ILAN initiative consists of a full day, each year, during which schoolchildren from around the country go door to door in their neighborhood to collect donations.
This year, more than 10,000 children participated in the event including some 3,600 kids in the Haifa area; some 3,000 in the Beersheba area; about 2,500 in Tel Aviv; 1,200 in Hadera; 580 in Modi’in Reut; and about 480 in Kiryat Ono.
“This is not just about the kids getting money for the cause, there is an educational purpose behind it,” ILAN board chairman CPA Ehud Rassabi told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
“When you have kids going and doing something for people with disabilities, and if the school also gets involved and explains it to them, it helps, they feel involved,” he said.
A large part of ILAN’s activity is directed toward changing the way society views the handicapped in Israel, Rassabi explained.
“When we, healthy people, see a person who looks a bit distorted, we say they are retarded and we don’t like looking at that, it disturbs us, we don’t want to see it,” he said.
“But the reason why I do this and I became involved was that understanding that beyond the outside appearance, there is a perfectly well functioning head and brain,” Rassabi said. “A lot of people with handicaps go on and become successful professionals, and doctors, and lawyers. It’s that thing we call prejudice that we want to erase of our society.”
Over the years, Rassabi has seen the amount of donations grow, despite recessions and difficult economic situations.
“It is absolutely incredible to see that the Israeli public really cares and donates. They open their hands and just give, it always amazes me to see that,” he said.
ILAN was established in 1952 under the name ILANSHIL, a Hebrew acronym denoting “Israeli Organization on Behalf of Polio Victims.”
In 1953, a vaccine for polio (poliomyelitis), an infectious viral disease that affects the central nervous system and can cause temporary or permanent paralysis, was developed in the United States, and the Israel Health Ministry entered into negotiations to buy the vaccine.
The United States agreed to supply the vaccine only to a national organization for the assistance of polio victims in Israel, and since ILANSHIL did not succeed in gaining national status, the Polio Committee was founded in 1956 to receive the vaccine.
The Polio Committee subsequently merged with ILANSHIL, giving birth to ILAN.
Today, ILAN helps people with cerebral palsy “make use of the full potential that they have in them,” Rassabi explained.
“Whether it’s helping them advance in the education system, sports, drawing, we want them to develop their skills, so they can later become an integral part of society,” he said.
During previous March of Dimes initiatives, the organization raised some NIS 1.8 million, and it hopes to exceed that this year.