When 16-year-old Rivka Shotkin of Passaic, NJ, crossed the finish line at the 2023 Miami Marathon, she did so to the cheers of hundreds of supporters. Paralyzed from the chest down after a ski accident in 2021 that left her with broken bones, punctured lungs, and a severed spinal cord, Rivka was surrounded by family and friends running alongside as she pushed her wheelchair to the encouraging chants of her teammates.
Part of Team Lifeline, Rivka and her friends donned their bright yellow jerseys and hit the road, taking to the streets to raise money and awareness for Chai Lifeline, the international support network providing social, emotional, and practical assistance to children, families, and communities impacted by medical crises and trauma.
“One of the first organizations that reached out after my accident was Chai Lifeline,” said Shotkin. “Our case manager helped my family navigate a very difficult period in our lives and gave us this feeling that we were not alone.”
Having spent the summer at Camp Simcha Special, Chai Lifeline’s summer camp for children with serious illnesses and disabilities, Shotkin felt it was time to give back to the organization that has supported her and her family.
“Camp Simcha not only showed me what it’s like to have a good time but also introduced me to people who have helped me grow into the person that I am today,” said Shotkin. “The whole experience was like a big hug. For the first time in almost two years, I was no longer the odd one out. I was just me, and that was a feeling I hadn’t felt in a while.”
Also joining Team Lifeline were Shana Lowell of Memphis, Tennessee, and her 15-year-old son Ilan who lives with Crohn’s Disease. “Developing Crohn’s has been isolating for Ilan, and for him to see the vast number of people supporting him, and us, has changed our lives,” Shana shared. “We no longer feel so alone. This experience has been so powerful. It’s given me the chance to see Ilan celebrated for who he is, and what we did together. I will never forget this.”
This year’s marathon held special significance, as Team Lifeline celebrated its 18th year – Chai anniversary.
Moshe Turk, director of Team Lifeline reflected on the special milestone: “I am beyond grateful to each of these runners and every one of the thousands of people who have crossed the finish line with Team Lifeline over these past 18 years, who have made a real difference and have had an immeasurable impact on families battling childhood illness, crisis, and loss.”
With more than 400 runners, Team Lifeline hosts the largest charity running team at the Miami Marathon. Team Lifeline participants and fans were a powerful site along the marathon route.
“I am truly inspired by the hundreds of runners and the thousands of supporters around the world who participate in Team Lifeline,” said Rabbi Simcha Scholar, CEO of Chai Lifeline. “Their dedication and passion for the cause is a testament to the power of community and the impact we can make when we come together.”
To learn more about Team Lifeline, visit www.teamlifeline.org.