For the fourth year in a row, volunteers from the Jerusalem police will chaperon disabled children at Friday’s annual Jerusalem Winner Marathon to raise funds and awareness for ALEH, the country’s leading network of facilities for children with severe disabilities.
Throughout the winter, several officers participating in the event have made weekly visits to ALEH’s residential facility in Jerusalem to train with the young patients for the upcoming marathon, now in its seventh year.
According to ALEH, created in 1982 to provide severely disabled children with the best available care to develop their fullest capabilities, the officers will be “wearing” children in special walking harnesses who cannot otherwise walk independently.
“Because they will be connected, every step taken by an officer is also taken by the child, giving children who have never even moved their own legs the ability to ‘run’ in the marathon,” the organization said Sunday.
Police Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich, who formerly deputy head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), said he recently visited ALEH’s training facility to support the collaboration.
“Our role as police officers is twofold: to serve and protect,” said Alsheich. “It is important for us to remember that we are here to serve the citizens, and not just deal with the criminals.
It is our responsibility to provide services to citizens on the streets, as well as seek out opportunities to give back to the community.”
Alsheich continued: “As police officers, it is our job to be model citizens and lend a hand to the weakest members of society. Working with ALEH is the ideal project for my police officers in that it helps remind them who they are as human beings, and why they became police officers in the first place.”
Shlomit Grayevsky, director of ALEH Jerusalem, said the initiative began as a limited volunteer commitment for the police officers, but soon became their favorite weekly activity, noting that many visit the Jerusalem facility to simply spend more time with the children.
“ALEH’s goal is to give every individual with complex disabilities in Israel the opportunity to reach their fullest potential,” said Grayevsky. “We work hard to change the way people view those with disabilities, so that they are embraced and included, instead of shunned, or forgotten.”
To that end, Grayevsky said the event sheds a much-needed spotlight on the disabled children, and their ongoing challenges.
“This amazing project with the Jerusalem police is the perfect way to show the world that individuals with disabilities should not be counted out,” he said. “These amazing kids are pushing their limits, and surprising us more and more each day.
“All it takes is the love and dedication of individuals who truly care, our unparalleled professional staff, and the incredible volunteers like Jerusalem’s courageous and kind men and women in blue.”
Friday’s events will include the “ALEH Marches Forward” walk on the Bridge of Strings, to serve as a “powerful and symbolic display to encourage ‘bridging’ the inclusion gap” for individuals with disabilities in Israeli society, said Grayevsky.
Additionally, a state-ofthe- art rehabilitation floor at ALEH’s Jerusalem facility will be inaugurated, followed by a gala dinner to mark the anniversary and honor the memory of Rivka Chervin-Weinberger, founder and longtime chairwoman of the ALEH Jerusalem Ladies Committee.
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