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Supporting Kids Of Courage

SUPPORTERS of an organisation that provides medically supervised dream trips to chronically ill children will seek to boost their fundraising efforts by taking part in next year’s Marathon Bahamas.

Kids for Courage is dedicated to improving the lives of children and young adults ages five to 24, who have been diagnosed with serious illnesses.

Marathon Bahamas, to be held January 16–19, 2014, will see volunteers raise funds to help the organisation’s campers disconnect from their daily struggles and experience freedom and adventure like every child should.

Ten Kids of Courage campers, in wheelchairs, will undertake a half marathon (13.1 miles) with support from volunteers.

The 2014 Marathon Bahamas trip will be the organisation’s second trek to the Bahamas to participate in the weekend event.

Pamela Richardson, race director for Marathon Bahamas, said she is very excited about Kids of Courage’s return.

Serving hundreds of families annually from across the United States and overseas, Kids of Courage organises trips under strict medical supervision.

Campers 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 staff, volunteers and organisers – more than 500 people annually – receive no compensation except the joy and gratitude of the campers and their families.

This year’s summer vacation is taking 450 campers and volunteers, with a ratio averaging 1-3, on a 10-day adventure to Orlando.

This cost is close to $800,000. Kids of Courage provides each camper with medical specialists and a team of dedicated counsellors 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.

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.”

For the past four years, Kids of Courage has provided summer events on the west coast and an annual adaptive ski programme in the US northeast.

Marathon Bahamas, celebrating it’s 5th anniversary, will attract over 1,300 race participants who will run along some of the most beautiful landscapes, enjoying the sun, sand and sea.

Preceding marathon day will be the fourth running/walking of the Susan G Komen Bahamas Race for the Cure 5K.

Profiles of some Kids of Courage runners and volunteers

• Zack Pollack, 18 years old, from Passaic, NJ, is a full quadriplegic due to cerebral palsy. He will leave his chair 10 yards before the finish line and takes tiny steps until he crosses the line.

• Jakob Hytken, 23 years old, is originally from San Diego, CA, and 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 fulfil their dreams by the example he can set.

Jakob said: “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, �le-de-France, France, and is presently a doctorate student in Washington, DC 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.

Richard 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.

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