Sixty adults, staff and parents of Chapel Haven Schleifer Center had an amazing time hiking Rockefeller State Park with Friends of Access Israel, Access Israel and Paratrek Aug. 9-11.
“We were honored to be a part of this worldwide movement toward accessibility for everyone,” said Chapel Haven Schleifer Center President Michael Storz. “This was truly the trip of a lifetime. I am grateful to Len and Harriet Schleifer for making this possible and to Jamie Lassner of Friends of Access Israel for planning such a flawless trip. Each of us learned a lot about what we are capable of doing, even in challenging terrain and with the hot summer weather. We had fun!”
Harriet P. Schleifer, who serves on the Board of Directors at CHSC and whose son, David, is enrolled in our SAIL program, said she is delighted with the newfound partnerships. Harriet and David participated in all three days of the hike.
“Chapel Haven Schleifer Center, ACCESS Israel, Friends of ACCESS Israel and Paratrek made great strides together, both literally and figuratively,” she said. “Our universal expedition proved first hand how much can be accomplished with positivity and perseverance!”
Friends of Access Israel, together with its collaborative partner, Access Israel and Paratrek, surprised Team Chapel Haven during a celebratory dinner Tuesday night by donating a Paratrek Trekker to Chapel Haven. Storz said the trekker will be well-used with future outings.
Chapel Haven adults were deeply touched by the experience.
Andrew B. shared this moving account:
“From my experience, life with a wheelchair has not been easy, but I can do many activities on my own. When I was eight years old in 2004, that summer was special because I got to be away from my parents, and I have changed a lot because of that time. Seventeen years later, I have achieved an unusual goal as well: an unbelievable “accessible hike” thanks to Access for Israel and the Paratrekker! Jamie, Omer and their colleagues worked hard to make this experience unforgettable! My experience on the trail was extraordinary because the Team gave me an opportunity to be involved in a way I would not have been previously. Examples included going down to the river, being able to hike alongside my friends from Chapel Haven and having Shir help me be supported with a big blue cushion. It meant a lot to me to be able to get to the top without my parents, which I was appreciative of. This moment will remain in my brain forever! In conclusion, an “accessible hike” is something I have always imagined myself doing. If people are interested, I would encourage them to try Universal Expedition at least once in their life. It is incredible! Happy traveling!”
REACH student Debbie M. also shared her experience:
“I love showing people that I can do things that they think I can’t do. Sometimes I have to show myself that I can do things that I am not confident about accomplishing. Hiking in the Universal Hike with Friends of Access Israel is an example that I wasn’t sure I could do and people may not have expected me to do. It is a confidence boost proving that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to doing and can show people that you can do things that people think you can’t do. Best of all, with the Paratrek Trekker, a wheelchair accessible for hiking, my friend with physical differences could participate. I especially like that it takes a team to use The Trekker because it is more fun to work together and enjoy the amazing sights on the hike together. I got to ride The Trekker and I felt like I was the queen of the universe. The Universal Hike is not just about walking. It takes planning, like packing and physical fitness. I stayed in a hotel by myself for the first time, that took confidence and skill too. If given the opportunity, I would love to join another Friends of Access Israel adventure.”
Team Chapel Haven joined teams from around the world in participating in the hikes, which took place Aug. 9-11 and represented varying levels of difficulty. The hikes capitalized on team members’ respective physical strengths, mental toughness, and diverse abilities, embodying the hike’s hashtag, #AccessibleTogether.
The use of the word “Universal” is meaningful and intentional.
- “Universal” is the concept of planning in advance to build events, schools, workplaces , and technology so they are usable by a wide range of people, regardless of age, or disability status. While universal design promotes access for individuals with disabilities, it also benefits everyone.
- “Universal” has added meaning because the word universal contains the letters USA and the word Israel.
Future hikes/treks will take place mostly in Israel with some events in the USA. The goal is to ultimately make specific trails in both countries accessible for everyone.
The USA treks took place in the famed Rockefeller State Park in Pleasantville NY. The picturesque Rockefeller State Park, is a hikers mecca. It has designed with carriage trails, wetlands, woodlands, meadows, fields and lake. It has a wide array of flat and hilly routes each with their own unique view.
Team Chapel Haven relished the chance to meet key partners from Access Israel, Friends of Access Israel and Paratrek. “We truly enjoyed spending three days with such a diverse and passionate group of disability activists. Once we were on the trail, our job titles melted away and we all worked together to conquer the trails and have fun,” said Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, Vice President of Admissions and Marketing, who helped plan the outing for Team Chapel Haven with Mike and James Lassner, Executive Director of Friends of Access Israel.
The Paratrek trekker is the brainchild of Omer Zur, the inventor, founder and CEO of Paratrek. On his post army trip he wanted to hike in Turkey with his father, a person with quadriplegia. Omer soon realized that he had to come up with a suitable device that can handle off-road hiking without taking away his father’s independence. The simple looking yet highly sophisticated Paratrek trekker can successfully traverse through rough and rocky terrain, steep inclines, narrow paths, over sand, boulders, rock and gravel. Learn more about Paratrek
Friends of Access Israel, together with its collaborative partner, Access Israel, strive to globally improve accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities and the elderly via advocacy, education, and inclusion. With each improvement we empower them to live self-determined lives enabling them to work, travel, study, and consume with dignity, equality, and maximum independence. Learn more about Access Israel
Learn more about Friends of Access Israel
For further details contact:
James Lassner Omer Zur