Brandon and the Rubin Run
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Brandon and the Rubin Run

Tenafly JCC’s annual event attracts wide range of athletes to fund special services

Brandon enthusiastically runs with Achilles supporters.
Brandon enthusiastically runs with Achilles supporters.

Brandon, 18, lives in Bergen County and is training for the New York City Marathon in the fall. On Mother’s Day, May 12, he’ll join some 1,000 other expected participants in the 38th annual Rubin Run, stepping off on the Tenafly campus of the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades.

Proceeds from this USA Track and Field-sanctioned fundraiser will go toward the JCC’s Guttenberg Center for Special Services, which offers programs that help Brandon, his older brother, Justin, and more than 850 other children, teens, and adults to become productive, healthy, and engaged members of the community.

The JCC’s director of special services, Shelley Levy, said that Brandon was five years old when his parents first enrolled him in the center’s Sunday Fun Day and Camp Haverim programs for children and teens with intellectual and developmental delays and autism.

Every Tuesday after school, Brandon attends Project PALS (Promoting Activities and Life Skills), a Guttenberg Center program in which eight teenage boys practice a range of essential life skills that include cooking, personal care, and wellness, and enjoy such activities as music and swimming.

“Brandon is a superstar,” Ms. Levy said. “He is a smiley, happy, well-adjusted all-around teenager who attends the business academy at the Alpine Learning Group, a pre-eminent school for individuals with autism. He works at AMC Theater with his job coach and has worked in offices, so he is totally capable in data entry, budget development, and spreadsheets.”

Athletics are where Brandon really shines, she added. He “swims like a fish” and is a member of the New Jersey chapter of Achilles International, a nonprofit devoted to empowering people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream running events. In March, Brandon completed his first New York City Half Marathon.

“Brandon and many other teenagers and young adults attending programs here at the JCC are also members of Achilles,” Ms. Levy said. “Achilles NJ will be a major presence in this race to the point where the New York Road Runners Club is donating transportation services for people in New York City who want to participate in the Rubin Run.”

Named for the late Leonard Rubin, a past president and founder of the JCC, who established this community-wide athletic event to encourage and promote healthy living, the race will feature three options: an 8-kilometer trail run through the Lost Brook Preserve, a 10k run, and a 5k walk/run.

“The Rubin Run exemplifies everything we stand for at the JCC,” the JCC’s chief executive officer, Jordan Shenker, said. “It brings our community together on a very special day, acknowledges the importance of fitness and healthy lifestyles, and raises significant funds to provide enrichment and professional guidance for people of all ages who are differently abled so they can attain the support and comfort they deserve in an inclusive and accessible environment.”

Trophies will go to the top three male and female winners in each age category, and all children under 10 who finish the race will receive a medal. In honor of Mother’s Day, all participating moms receive a rose as they cross the finish line. Outdoor activities for children and free babysitting are offered on race day at the JCC.

This year’s main Rubin Run sponsors are the Kaplen Foundation, BSecure, Englewood Health, the Rubin and Rubach families, the North Jersey Media Group, the Jewish Standard, and Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods.

“This is one of two major fundraisers that we do every year at the JCC to support individuals with disabilities at our center,” Ms. Levy said. “What is unique about the Rubin Run is that it is open to the entire community, not only JCC members. In my mind, this event represents what is best about our JCC and our values and mission statement: It is a combination of chesed, tikkun olam, and mitzvah” — kindness, improving the world, and good deeds.

“It welcomes people from all sectors of our community and the funds we raised are allocated for us to become a more accessible community center through the purchase of adapted equipment such as ramps, evacuation chairs, hydraulic lift chairs for our pool — anything we need to furnish our programs and camps to support their inclusive nature,” she added.

The fundraisers have made possible, for example, the purchase of 20 iPads to enable participants to develop communication and organizational skills; and Apartment 101, a model apartment devoted to life-skills development. “We use these funds also to support our families financially through scholarships,” Ms. Levy said. “The financial burden on these families is huge.”

Brandon’s family includes his older brother, Justin, who has significant autism and cognitive challenges, and their younger sister, Katherine, who has volunteered in Camp Haverim.

“The family literally grew up here and we have a close relationship,” Ms. Levy said. “They see this place as their home away from home.”

For more about the Rubin Run, go to jccotp.org/rubinrun, call (201) 408-1404, or email rubinrun@jccotp.org.

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