By Dan Horowitz & Taali Lester Tollman--With over 200 families having already pledged to raise a minimum of $1,000 and 33 more committed to bringing in at least $5,000, this year’s UJA Walk with Israel Family Challenge, taking place on Sunday, May 29, has already raised twice as much as was raised at this time last year - and fundraising is only now moving into high gear.
And what better family project is there than joining forces on behalf of UJA to raise funds for its ongoing, transformative work in Israel?
“The Walk is huge in our community, in fact it’s actually the largest single-day Jewish event in Toronto, but we wanted this year’s event to be more than just about the one day, and that funds raised will continue to work on behalf of Israel and her citizens. We have been overwhelmed with our community’s response,” said Laurie Sheff, chair of this year’s Walk with her husband Jonny Cole.
“This year, we started the Family Challenge where we actually challenged families to come together and either commit to raising $1,000 or $5,000 towards UJA’s incredible, ongoing work in Israel.” Cole continued. “So now you not only have an amazing community event, and a day of great fun, you also have a signature event that raises money for Israel and can truly make a difference in the long-run.”
Prior to the 10:00 a.m. start of the Walk, participants are invited to the kick-off party, taking place at 9:00 a.m., featuring a live performance by Juno Award winner Shawn Desman, presented by Mandell Entertainment Group & Camp Timberlane at 9:30 a.m. at Coronation Park. The day culminates with great food, games, rides and inflatables for the kids at the Renee & Irwin Nadal Festival at Ontario Place, starting at 12:30 p.m., after the completion of the Walk.
One man who can’t wait for the Walk to start is Toronto’s Sam Hershenhorn, who at 85, will be doing exactly what he’s done once a year for the past 43 years, he’ll put on his shoes, and walk the Walk.
To put this incredible feat into perspective, consider that Sam started this annual ritual back in 1967 which also happens to be the year we celebrated the 100-year anniversary of Canadian Confederation and, alas, the year the Toronto Maple Leafs last captured the Stanley Cup.
Back then, Sam completed the then grueling 26-mile UJA Walkathon with his wife, Gertrude, and children. Today, in time for this year’s Family Fun Challenge, Sam’s close knit circle has grown to include not only his children, but his three grandchildren and one great grandchild.
“Today, the Walk is much more about community involvement, and, of course, family involvement,” says Sam. “The Walk with Israel has always been important to me and my family because it unites our Jewish community for one purpose, Israel. It also happens to combine two of my great loves, walking and helping Israel.”
For Sam, the Walk is anything but a one-day event. In fact, the event consumes a good four months of his year, as he writes letters to potential donors, collects pledges and generally prepares for the day itself.
And, however Sam gets himself ready to walk, it’s clear that his strategy is a winning one. Last year, Sam raised more than $18,000 from 205 sponsors, and judging by his unmistakable passion for this year’s event, nobody would be surprised if he raises the bar again, as he has for the past 43 years.
As proof that the Walk with Israel Family Challenge has attracted enthusiastic participants and fundraisers, young and old, alike, the Green Gold Rainbow Fundraising team has already exceeded their expectations.
Comprised of Daniel Carman, 29, and Zach Goldstein, 30, the team has already raised more than $4,000 for the Walk.
“Zach and I are childhood friends and, growing up, we always talked about raising money together,” says Carman. “Both of us made strong connections to Israel through our Canada-Israel Experience Birthright Israel trip, and we were both so grateful to had been given the gift of this incredible trip to Israel, we wanted to raise money for the Walk and walk with our peers and be able to give back to the country that has left such important footprints in our lives. We want to recognize all the people who stepped up to the plate this year and donated generously to our team. Everyone who donated will be walking with us in spirit.”
For more information, or to register your own fundraising team for the Walk with Israel Family Challenge, call the UJA Walk with Israel Hotline at 416.631.5700 or visit walkwithisrael.com