Tuesday, January 27, 2015

One Hundred Steps

One hundred steps. Takes about a minute. Right foot, left foot, repeat. Who even counts how many steps they take?
Adam Wolf does.
Adam was born sixteen years ago with cerebral palsy and an entire laundry list of physical disorders. His doctors didn't expect him to survive. He proved them wrong. They said he’d never lift his head or walk. He lifted his head years ago, but has been confined to a wheelchair as he struggles through battle after battle, defying the odds again and again.
Adam Wolf is a warrior.
Adam’s mom Ali is determined to let him fight his fights. His dad and six siblings understand his determination. Together they balance school, doctors’ appointments and family time to give him as close to normal a life as possible.
Adam Wolf has family.
Ten years ago, an organization came into the picture. They gave the family the support and assistance they needed. For the past six years, they sent Adam to a camp for children suffering from cancer and other life threatening illnesses. There he learned that nothing can stop him from being a kid. There he learned that nothing can stop him from dreaming, from smiling, and dare I say it, from doing the impossible.
Adam Wolf has Chai Lifeline and Camp Simcha.
Chai Lifeline has a team, a team of (mostly) young men and women who want to help. Team Lifeline, now in its tenth year, raises money and awareness by running marathons. But it’s more than that. Team Lifeline’s volunteers are actively involved with the children that they help. In 2011, Adam’s camp counselors decided to push him 13.1 miles in the Miami Marathon, while raising money to make it possible. In 2012, Ali took the plunge, trained, and ran alongside them.
Adam Wolf has Team Lifeline.
Adam wanted to do more. He didn’t want to just be pushed, he wanted to push himself. He would learn to walk. He had taken a few steps here and there over the years, with someone holding him on each side, he haltingly moved one foot in front of the other, with barely enough strength to support himself. But this past summer he made the decision. He would walk the last mile of the Miami Marathon. With the help of his physical therapist, he got a walker and learned how to use it. Each step was painful. He went on. With his mom’s tireless help, he went from one step, to two, to five. He trained hard.
Eventually he was able to take one hundred steps. That’s not even close to a mile, but Adam was determined. He also had his secret weapons, his family and friends. He set off to Miami on January 22 with Ali and his older sister Samantha. (Older by a minute. They are two in a set of quadruplets.) And his friends flew in from all over the country, and beyond. Four hundred and fifty strong, Team Lifeline invaded South Florida. They were there to spread love and awareness, and to have a blast!
Adam’s personal marathon team was his mother, camp staffer Ezzi, Team Lifeline friend Zelig, and new friend SImcha. They would alternate pushing the wheelchair for the first twelve miles. That was accomplished surprisingly easily, as they cheered each other on and were constantly encouraged by the constant flow of runners passing them. They screamed, ran, jogged, walked and danced through twelve chilly miles. It was under 60 degrees at race time, freezing by Adam’s sunny California standards. Every runner from Team Lifeline shouted encouragement along the way, as well as members of other charity groups, like Team Yachad and Team Friendship.
At mile twelve the real work began. So did the fun. Waiting there was Samantha and a small group of camp staff. Adam was helped from his wheelchair to the walker. The band stepped it up and dancing erupted. Twelve miles and we were just getting started! (Yes, this writer was one of Adam’s team.)
Step after step, Adam was on his way. We sang, we danced, we screamed, we shouted. I still have the echoes of “GO! Go go go Aaadam!” ringing in my ears. We encouraged him, as he encouraged us. I walked backwards behind him most of the way, cautioning other runners to move to the left and continue to their own great personal victories. I lost count of how many high fives I got, and how many times people shouted Adam’s name as they passed. One hundred steps flew by, and Adam had already walked more than he had in his lifetime. But one hundred steps is not a mile. Strengthened by his entourage, he persevered. His knees hurt, he was cold and tired, but he kept on going. As we neared the finish line, the emcee gave us quite a shout out. The crowd saw the miracle that was happening and began cheering for Adam. A total stranger, who was finishing her half marathon, was so overwhelmed that she slowed down to walk and cheer the last 100 yards with us.
The finish line was a scene that will remain etched in my mind forever. Unfortunately, I will not share it with you. Not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t. The words won’t come. The joy, the tears, the emotions, there are no words large enough.
Adam had walked 1.1 miles. Because of Ali. Because of Samantha and the rest of his family. Because of Chai Lifeline. Because of Team Lifeline. But mostly because…
Adam Wolf is a hero.
Adam Wolf is my hero.

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