Jul 28, 2016  By Mitch Tepper  Category: Special Needs,

LOTEM's accessible trails let father and son hike together for first time

Editor's note: At the end of this post you'll find details on how to enter a raffle that benefits LOTEM and could win you round-trip tickets to Israel. 

I was left disabled by a diving accident in 1982 and felt a personal connection to LOTEM-Making Nature Accessible and its work with children and adults with special needs. In the summer of 2009, my son Jeremy celebrated his becoming a bar mitzvah in Israel and raised more than $2,000 for the organization as part of his tzedakah project.

After his bar mitzvah service, we hiked in Nahal HaShofet, Israel's first inclusive trail developed by LOTEM together with the JNF. We also took part in nature activities on LOTEM's ecological farm in the neighboring Emek HaShalom. During our time at Emek HaShalom, we commemorated the celebration by eating cake with LOTEM staff members.

It was the first time I was able to hike together in nature with my son. Typically, I would take a path that's accessible to me. Then, when we would get to a place where I couldn't go, I'd have to stop and just watch. I would never be able to participate alongside my family unless we were on a paved path. With LOTEM, I was able to go everywhere they went. Hiking in Nahal Hashofet was a special experience, especially because I also work with people who have disabilities.

Jeremy’s words after the hike were: "Hiking is one of the most memorable parts of any trip to Israel, so to do it with my dad was really a great experience."

Anthony Naturman, my dear friend and HOD (Hebrew Order of David) brother in Atlanta, where I live, attended a JNF parlor meeting at my home about two years ago to raise funds and awareness for LOTEM. He was very moved. Thank G-d he ended up being president of HOD Lodge Carmel in Atlanta and selected special needs as the president's philanthropic choice for the year. We chose two organizations in Georgia and had to include our brothers and sisters in Israel.  

As part of its fundraising effort, HOD is offering raffle tickets at $100 each for two round-trip tickets to Israel plus $1,000 in cash or $4,500. To purchase your raffle tickets to support JNF partner LOTEM, click here. Tickets must be marked as LOTEM in the event comment. We would like to thank our friends of HOD in Atlanta for selecting LOTEM  as a beneficiary of its year-long fundraising drive!