What is it about ALYN that has peo­ple jump­ing out of air­planes?

Dozens of sky­divers raise money for ALYN Hospi­tal in an un­con­ven­tional way

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - • MAAYAN HOFF­MAN

When Yechiel Fish­man took his job as lo­gis­tics co­or­di­na­tor for ALYN Wheels of Love an­nual bike ride and fund-raiser, he could not have imag­ined it would lead him to jump out of an air­plane.

How­ever, on April 2, that is ex­actly what the slen­der, bearded Fish­man did, and he brought five of his 10 chil­dren and stepchil­dren along for the leap.

The Fish­man/Bishitz sky­divers – Gavriel, 19; Har’el, 18; Naf­tali, 17; Gi­lad, 16; and Shirin, 15 – were six of the more than 50 peo­ple who par­tic­i­pated in Sky­dive for ALYN, which raises money for Is­rael’s only pe­di­atric rehabilita­tion hospi­tal. The event took place at SkyKef in Sde Teiman near Ofakim.

Fish­man said that over nearly two decades, his chil­dren have grown deeply con­nected to ALYN and its mis­sion of treat­ing kids with the sever­est con­gen­i­tal and ac­quired con­di­tions. Fish­man’s lit­tle ones would join him at the hospi­tal on a reg­u­lar ba­sis to help bring joy to the pa­tients.

“When my chil­dren see an­other kid who has been hurt in a road ac­ci­dent or who was born with a phys­i­cal dis­abil­ity, they un­der­stand this as an un­for­tu­nate part of life,” said Fish­man, “and they treat these spe­cial kids with the same re­spect they treat any other child.”

Fish­man said that when the brood heard about the op­por­tu­nity to sky­dive for ALYN, they wanted to give back by rais­ing the money to jump.

“It’s a great project to show that ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble,” said Naf­tali Fish­man.

Dan, 10, said his brother was a “stud” for jump­ing and that he was “re­ally proud.”

Anat Fish­man-Bishitz, who works at a school for chil­dren with spe­cial needs, was no less en­thu­si­as­tic than her spouse or chil­dren.

“As long as their jump­ing [out of the plane] means ALYN can stand on its feet, then I think it’s okay,” she said.

Fish­man said when he started at ALYN it was like any other job taken to pay the bills. But af­ter only a short while, he be­gan “to feel like I was work­ing at ALYN for my soul. The kids at ALYN need a lot of love, and I want to be one of the peo­ple that gives them this love. To­day, I feel like 50% of my job is for the salary, and the other 50% is for my soul.”

The Jerusalem-based hospi­tal started Sky­dive for ALYN three years ago to sup­ple­ment the nearly $3m. al­ready raised by its suc­cess­ful Wheels of Love mul­ti­day char­ity bi­cy­cle ride. ALYN Di­rec­tor of Spe­cial Projects Chaim Wiz­man, who founded the sky­dive, said he thought ALYN could lever­age the good name it earned from its bike ride to get in­volved in ad­di­tional sports-based fund-rais­ing. The first year, ALYN had about a dozen jumpers. This year, 51 sky­divers be­tween the ages of 11 and 68 each raised a min­i­mum of $1,000 for one jump out of an air­plane at SkyKef. A non­char­i­ta­ble in-tan­dem jump costs around NIS 850 or $243.

“We were look­ing to cre­ate some­thing that re­flected our hospi­tal’s theme of over­com­ing chal­lenges,” Wiz­man said of the event. “ALYN is a place where kids come in with pro­found dis­abil­i­ties and con­ven­tional wis­dom tells you they can only do X, Y or Z. At ALYN, we get these kids much more func­tional than con­ven­tional wis­dom would sug­gest.

“The jump re­flects the theme of go­ing be­yond your­self.”

ALYN was founded in 1932 as a hospi­tal for chil­dren with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties. Ac­cord­ing to ALYN direc­torgen­eral Mau­rit Beeri, in the early days, ALYN worked mostly with chil­dren with crooked feet or other or­tho­pe­dic chal­lenges. To­day, ALYN serves chil­dren and ado­les­cents with some of the most se­vere phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties and in­juries, in­clud­ing cere­bral palsy, neu­ro­mus­cu­lar dis­eases, spinal-cord in­juries, brain

in­juries, burns, ter­ror­ism and mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent vic­tims.

The hospi­tal has 120 in­pa­tient beds and serves around 300 peo­ple in its in­pa­tient and out­pa­tient pro­grams at any time. It re­ceives min­i­mal pay­ment for ser­vices from the health funds. As a non­profit, it cov­ers the rest of its ex­penses via do­na­tions and grants. Cur­rently, said Beeri, the hospi­tal op­er­ates on a deficit, with an an­nual op­er­at­ing bud­get of NIS 15 mil­lion.

Out­side its di­rect work with pa­tients, ALYN runs pro­grams to sup­port the fam­i­lies of these pa­tients, and it re­cently launched the ALYNno­va­tion in­no­va­tion space with the as­sis­tance of the Na­tional In­sur­ance Fund and a pri­vate donor. ALYNno­va­tion is work­ing to pro­vide kids with ac­ces­si­ble and af­ford­able as­sis­tive tech­nolo­gies, home­grown in a brand-new cut­tingedge in­no­va­tion pace.

Beeri said that when par­ents, physi­cians and other care­givers be­lieve in the ALYN chil­dren, and when these chil­dren are taught to be­lieve in them­selves, they can of­ten com­pletely turn around their lives.

“What these chil­dren are do­ing amounts to jump­ing out of planes ev­ery day,” said Beeri.

This year, one for­mer ALYN pa­tient raised funds and jumped from the air­plane “to show just how re­ha­bil­i­tated he was and to give back to the or­ga­ni­za­tion that helped him come so far,” said Wiz­man.

Jump­ing out of an air­plane is in­deed in­tense. The ALYN jumpers go in tan­dem, which means they are har­nessed to a trained in­struc­tor.

The plane climbs to be­tween 10,000 and 12,000 feet. Then, the door opens, and the sky­diver is star­ing into the abyss.

As the trainee, you are sit­ting on your in­struc­tor’s lap, with your head against his or her shoul­der. The in­struc­tor nudges you for­ward to the door un­til your feet are dan­gling over the edge. You look out and the in­struc­tor says, “Ready?” but be­fore you can re­spond, you are out of the plane.

You drop head first, free falling for the first 5,000 to 6,000 feet. In the first 45 sec­onds, you ac­cel­er­ate from 0 to around 200 kilo­me­ters an hour, which is the max­i­mum speed you can go. You main­tain a con­stant speed for about an­other 10 sec­onds, and then you raise your arms out, like a bird, which slows you down a bit.

Within an­other minute, the para­chute opens, and you glide back to ground over the course of the next four or five min­utes.

“It’s a breath­tak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Wiz­man. “Once you are out there, you are not scared.”

Ac­cord­ing to the United States Para­chute As­so­ci­a­tion, tan­dem sky­div­ing has a strong safety record, with one stu­dent fa­tal­ity per 500,000 tan­dem jumps over the past decade. In 2016, USPA mem­bers in the US re­ported 2,129 sky­div­ing in­juries re­quir­ing med­i­cal care. That’s ap­prox­i­mately one in­jury per 1,515 sky­dives.

Ac­cord­ing to Wiz­man, SkyKef has had about 350,000 jumps and no fa­tal­i­ties or se­ri­ous in­juries.

Si­gal Strier was all con­fi­dence be­fore her jump on April 2. That’s be­cause “it was an old dream of mine that I never ful­filled, and this was a chance to jump and do­nate to ALYN at the same time.”

Strier was jump­ing on be­half of her foster son, Ramez, whom she first met as an in­fant while vol­un­teer­ing through the First Hug pro­gram for aban­doned ba­bies. Ramez was hos­pi­tal­ized at Sheba Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Tel Hashomer. Later, he was trans­ferred to ALYN for res­pi­ra­tory rehabilita­tion.

Ramez was in ALYN for four years and Strier, a Jerusalemi­te, came to visit him nearly ev­ery day. When he was re­leased, she fought for foster cus­tody and to­day Ramez lives with Strier. None­the­less, she said ALYN re­mains “like a sec­ond home for us.”

“Mir­a­cles hap­pen,” Strier said. “Ramez is proof. He was very ill and had no fam­ily. To­day, he is do­ing much bet­ter and he has me, he has a fam­ily. ALYN has a lot to do with this.”

(Alyn) (Marc Is­rael Sellem/The Jerusalem Post) (Marc Is­rael Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

ALYN IS ac­knowl­edged world­wide as a premier pe­di­atric hospi­tal spe­cial­iz­ing in di­ag­nos­ing and re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing in­fants, chil­dren and ado­les­cents with con­gen­i­tal and ac­quired phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties. GROUND CREW: Spouses and chil­dren await the safe ar­rival...

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