Local runners raise funds, awareness


Three young women from the St. Louis Jewish community are heading to Miami at the end January to participate in the ING Half Marathon being held in Miami, Florida.

The ING Marathon and Half Marathon provide the venue for individuals and groups to help raise funds for many local, national and international charities. The women are raising funds for two of the organization’s official affiliated charity partners: Team Challenge supporting the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and Team Lifeline supporting Chai Lifeline.

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Abby and Ruth Schachter are the daughters of Florence and Joe Schachter of Creve Coeur. The two sisters and their brother Michael intimately understand the effects of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

“I was diagnosed at age 18 with ulcerative colitis,” Abby said. “The disease affects the digestive system with most people being diagnosed in their teens to mid-thirties.”

Abby is in her second year of medical school at St. Louis University. She heard about the marathon from her sister Ruth who found out about it when she was visiting the website of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.

“I have never really run before, but it sounded like a really good idea and the cause is important to me,” Abby said. “Many of my friends and family have the disease.”

She joined Team Challenge which meets every week in Forest Park to run together with a personal trainer. There are follow-up activities to do in-between the weekly meeting. Abby has been training for over three months and is now up to running over seven miles.

Abby considers herself very fortunate that the disease hasn’t had a big impact on her day to day life.

“Most of the time I don’t know I have a disease,” Abby said. “However it is very unpredictable, and when I do get sick it can be hard to do normal activities.”

The disease has had a much stronger affect on her sister Ruth’s life. She said she was very lucky to have very supportive friends and family as she struggled with the disease.

“I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 11,” Ruth said. “It took a toll on me. It can be a very physically and emotionally draining illness. It can be especially challenging for young teenage girls.”

Ruth received her undergraduate degree in Jewish studies and history from Indiana University and a Masters in History from University of Maryland in College Park. She is the Jewish Student Life Coordinator for Hillel at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Ruth admits she is not a runner – especially since she had knee surgery last year. Her goal is to walk the half marathon. She has been training with Team Challenge and been able to increase her speed and endurance.

“The point is to do it,” Ruth said. “Lots of people have helped me and it’s a way of passing along that assistance. I feel my participation puts a face on the illness. I want children and teens to know it’s a disease you can live with.”

Dodi Smason is the daughter of Chani and Rabbi Ze’ev Smason. She is a senior at Block Yeshiva High School and the president of its Student Council. Dodi was selected to be the school’s team representative to run in the half marathon for Chai Lifeline programs.

“I will be raising funds for Chai Lifeline programs Camp Simcha and Camp Simcha Special,” Dodi said. “They provide overnight camp programs for children with cancer and blood illnesses and serious chronic or genetic conditions.”

This will be the first marathon for Dodi who has been an endurance runner for four years. She has been participating in a rigorous training schedule adding on a mile or two each week.

While the school only sends one representative, everyone participates in the event by helping with the fundraising as well as providing moral support to Dodi. The girls had a bake sale at school and held a silent auction where everyone donated items.

Dodi is especially grateful for the support of her parents.

“I cannot thank my dad enough for his help,” Dodi said. “He helped contact the rabbis, sent e-mails and put me in touch with big businesses.”

Each of the participants must raise a minimum amount of money by mid-January to participate in the ING Half Marathon. Those amounts are: Abby – $4000, Dodi – $3600 and Ruth – $3900.

To contribute and for more information visit: www.ccteamchallenge.org and follow the guidelines to sponsor Abby Schachter (Mid America) or Ruth Schachter (Illinois) and www.teamlifeline.org and follow guidelines to sponsor Dodi Smason.