NYC Marathon
NYC MarathonIsrael news photo: ING NYC Marathon

A blind IDF veteran will run the 26-mile New York City marathon Sunday to raise awareness and money for Israel’s first seeing-eye dog training center.

The race attracts more than 100,000 applicants annually, including many world-class athletes.

Fifteen years ago, Gadi Yarkoni lost his eyesight while serving in Lebanon. But it took only 10 months before he made the decision to acquire Timmy, his guide dog, who led him out of the darkness and into “freedom.”

Inspired by that experience, Yarkoni will join Noach Braun, founder of the Guide Dog Center for the Blind in Israel, to run in New York’s annual five-borough-wide marathon to raise money and awareness for the program.

The process of training a guide dog is time-consuming and costly: each takes a minimum of two years and $25,000 to train, according to Braun. Because the Guide Dog Center for the Blind in Israel has non-profit status, however, there is no charge to a visually-impaired person who acquires a guide dog from the center.

More than 400 dogs have been trained at the Tel Aviv program by Braun and his wife, who both speak Hebrew with the canines.

Yarkoni and Braun, both novices, will be accompanied in the race by marathon runner Mike Reznik, a nine-race veteran who told WCBS television news, “I think the message that these two are bringing is that everything is possible.”