By: Michele Levy
The gun sounds and Team SBH is off and running through the scenic Hudson Valley, past the foliage, alongside the Delaware River, and through three states.
Now rewind to last February, when community members 16 and older ran in the Team SBH Disney Princess Half Marathon in Orlando. Everyone had an amazing timebut what about the 14 and 15 year olds in our community, who didn’t get to participate? On the plane home, we came up with the idea to have a run for the 9th and 10th graders. Little did we know that this race was actually going to be a very small part of the weekend that we were about to experience.
The race we chose was the Tri-State Classic 10k in Port Jervis, NY. Its course took us through New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania at the height of fall’s changing leaves. It was close to home, yet far enough away to plan a weekend around it.
So, in mid-August off we went, six of us piling into a car with Charles Anteby, Director of Development for Sephardic Bikur Holim, at the wheel. After almost giving up on finding a hotel, we stumbled upon the Malibu Dude Ranch.
We were greeted by a man called “Doc” and his wife, Phyllis. He showed us around the ranch and then told us the story of how a boy from Coney Island, Brooklyn became a cowboy and now runs the only working dude ranch east of the Mississippi. He runs the ranch with a passion and told the group that anything is possible if you put your heart and mind to it.
During the six months leading up to the marathon, Solly Spigel, along with the SBH Junior Marathon Committee, which is headed by Charles Anteby, worked tirelessly registering 90 teens from local community schools in Brooklyn, New Jersey and Manhattan, planning the programming for the weekend, arranging meals, rooming accommodations, transportation and logistics for the entire weekend.
During the three days that we were together, Solly, Jacqueline Sasson, Stephanie Maleh, Rosette Shammah, Claire Setton, Jack C. Anteby and Jack A. Anteby made sure that all ran smoothly.
Thursday night, when the buses pulled into the ranch, runners were greeted by DJ Sammy Sabbagh and his sound system
that seemed to follow us around the ranch all weekend. Cowboy hats were passed around and the weekend was underway. To arrive at this point, the 90 teens who stepped off that bus had raised funds for SBH, trained through some pretty hot summer days and went on some early Sunday morning group runs when they would rather have been sleeping late. They worked hard and accomplished a goal that most of them thought was impossible.
Friday morning we woke to the sound of pouring rain, which let up a bit as the day went on. The weather did not stop us from having an amazing day of horseback riding, archery, and target practice.
As the day wound down, everyone returned to their cabins to prepare for Shabbat. We met back in the main house for Mincha and Arbit followed by a delicious Shabbat dinner that was prepared by the weekend’s caterers, David and Susan Abady and their family.
Friday afternoon Dr. Victor Grazi, President of Sephardic Bikur Holim, and his wife, Joanne, as well as several other SBH board members and their families joined us. The atmosphere was a cross between a Shabbaton and a family reunion. After-dinner, Charles Anteby welcomed us to the First Annual Junior Marathon Weekend. Then there were some short speeches from the members of the SBH Youth Committee, which is comprised of approximately 15 young adults whose goal is to get high school students involved in doing hesed while enhancing the lives of our community members.
Shabbat morning we woke up to glorious sunshine. After a beautiful minyan highlighted by our own young men as hazanim and reading the Torah, we had Kiddush out by the lake. The mountains surrounded us and the lake was glistening in the morning sun.
We reconvened for our Shabbat lunch in the main dining room for another great meal prepared by the Abady’s. After lunch Dr. Grazi addressed us with an inspirational message about the everlasting effect of charity. After Dr. Grazi spoke, a few more of the SBH youth committee members gave speeches and then Isaac Sasson told us what it has meant to him to be part of the SBH family. His message was cleargiving to SBH helps the giver as much as those on the receiving end of kindness.
Once nighttime was upon us the fun was turned up a notch. The race numbers were given out; along with SBH race t-shirts, sweatpants and hats. Everyone then went outside to watch a big bonfire, which turned into a party with singing and dancing. We made s’mores, ate ice cream sundaes and then went on a hayride. Nobody wanted the night to end, but since wake up was scheduled for 6:30 the next morning we eventually made it back to our rooms to sleep.
Eight-thirty Sunday morning: the runners nervously stretched at the start of the Tri-State Classic 10k. The theme song from Rocky played in the background. We were ready for the gun to go off.
Three states later, covering 6.2 miles, we crossed the finish line, every one of us cheering each other on, with smiles on our faces, and a sense of accomplishment. We are Team SBH.
We stayed for the awards ceremony where several of our runners won awards for their age group. Then we got back on the buses to return to the ranch for our victory barbecueand what a victory party it was. Out once again by the lake, we talked not only about the race but the whole incredible weekend.
Victor Dweck and JoJo Tawil put together a slide show that captured the spirit of everything from signing up to crossing the finish line. And Charles, in his closing speech, thanked each and every one of us but really we should have thanked him, because he allowed us to make it happen.
The donations that were raised for SBH are already helping clients. The Youth Committee has many new eager volunteers. The race was amazing, but it was just a small part of this fabulous weekend. Stay tuned for next year’s follow up. It’s sure to be another one for the record books.