Kids of Courage takes on Marathon Bahamas
Published: Dec 28, 2012
From January 17-20, 2013, supporters of the Kids of Courage group in the United States will travel to The Bahamas to take part in Marathon Bahamas to raise funds for the charitable group. According to reports, about 100 of those supporters will run in the marathon. In addition, 10 Kids of Courage campers in wheelchairs, will undertake a half marathon (13.1 miles) with support from volunteers. The group provides medically supervised vacation to chronically ill children and young adults, 5-24 years of age.
Serving hundreds of families annually from across the United States and overseas, Kids of Courage is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to improving the lives of children and young adults who suffer from serious medical diagnoses. The group allows the campers to disconnect from their daily struggles and experience freedom and adventure like every child. Under strict unobtrusive medical supervision, they visit parks and attractions, bond with new friends, meet celebrities and experience trips of a lifetime.
None of the campers or volunteers pay for their trips. Kids of Courage is fully supported by private donations. The entire Kids of Courage staff, volunteers and organizers, more than 500 people yearly, receive no compensation except for the joy and gratitude the experiences bring to the campers and their families.
For this year’s summer vacation, 450 campers and volunteers, with a ratio averaging 1-3, ventured on a 10-day adventure trip to Los Angeles, California. The cost of the trip was close to $800,000. Kids of Courage provides each camper with medical specialists and a team of dedicated counselors who spend months preparing for each trip.
Trained by Dr. Stuart Ditchek, pediatrician, medical director and co-founder of Kids of Courage, the staff can tackle a slew of medical emergencies that may occur with campers who suffer from over 50 illnesses or chronic conditions.
Planes are turned into “flying hospitals” and hotels are stocked with Eclipse Oxygen concentrators, feeding pumps, suction machines, monitoring equipment (including blood pressure and pulse oximetry), and a multitude of medications, full resuscitation equipment including drug bags, intubation kits and defibrillators, for the visit of the kids.
Dr. Ditchek said: “The sheer happiness each camper feels on the trip helps them forget their daily health battles and as a result their immune systems, for at least a short while, are improved. For these campers this is a rare window into a ‘normal’ childhood.”
Pamela Richardson, Race Director of Marathon Bahamas, is the single parent of a profoundly handicapped child. She is very familiar with the daily medical challenges of caring for her son. An avid, endurance runner, Richardson has exposed her son to the South Florida running world with his participation in multiple running events - she competes while pushing him in his jogger. He enjoys the camaraderie, socialization and stimulation of the runs. Richardson is truly very excited about Kids of Courage’s participation in Marathon Bahamas and quips that “it will bring a new dimension to the meaning of ‘competing’ to Marathon Bahamas, to the country and to the region”.
For the past four years, Kids of Courage has provided summer events on the west coast of the United States and an annual adaptive ski program in the U.S. Northeast. Ski Trip 2013 is planned for January 5 and over 100 campers will spend a week skiing at Mount Snow, Vermont.
As for Marathon Bahamas, the event is expected to attract over 2,000 race participants who will run along some of the most beautiful landscapes of The Bahamas, enjoying the sun, sand and sea of New Providence.
Profiles of some Kids of Courage runners and volunteers:
Zack Pollack, 18-years-old, from Passaic, New Jersey, is a full quadriplegic due to cerebral palsy. He will leave his chair 10 yards before the finish line and take tiny steps until he crosses the line.
Jakob Hytken, 23-years-old, is originally from San Diego, California but presently lives in Los Angeles where he goes to college. He has an unspecified neurological muscle disease which has confined him to a wheelchair and will continue to waste every voluntary muscle in his body until he loses complete control. He began with Kids of Courage as a camper and is now a mentor. He believes staying involved with Kids of Courage is vital not only to himself but also to the younger campers. He understands how important it is for them to see that they can fulfill their dreams by the example he set. Jakob stated: “I practice the very mission of Kids of Courage by saying, today I will face the odds against me and I will be an adventurer and live my life.”
Myriam Paperman is a counselor with Kids of Courage. She is from Epinay Sur Seine, Île-de-France, France and is presently a doctorate student in Washington, D.C. studying clinical psychology. She said: "At 22, you think you know life, but you don't until you meet the Kids of Courage. They inspire me with their ability to grab the best of life no matter the obstacles they face."
Richard Bernstein was born blind; he is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Northwestern University School of Law and is an attorney with the Sam Bernstein Law Firm in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Bernstein is an avid runner, completing 17 marathons – including seven New York City marathons – the Ironman triathlon in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in 2008 and the Israman triathlon in Eilat, Israel in 2011. He co-hosts a one-hour legal radio show called, “Fighting for Justice” with Pulitzer Prize winner Angelo Henderson in metro Detroit. He is a tireless advocate fighting for the rights of the disabled, and provides a voice to those who would otherwise be forced to be silent.