Thousands of Israelis and elite runners from 60 countries around the globe will be uniting on Friday in Jerusalem for the upcoming Jerusalem Winner Marathon.

The Shalva Team, a group dedicated to bringing the joy of sports to people of all abilities, will be participating in the marathon. Shalva, Israel’s Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, provides transformative care for individuals with disabilities, empowers their families, and promotes social inclusion.

This year, Shalva Team has assembled over 1,500 caring individuals who will run special segments of the track in support of Shalva, most notably the 800-meter long segment designated for individuals with special needs. This record-breaker makes Shalva the largest among the Marathon’s Community teams. As a proud member of the Community Teams since the launching of the first Jerusalem Marathon eight years ago, Shalva Team is the Marathon’s longest-standing Community Team.

Excitement is peaking at Shalva Center as the kids and their families prepare to run the Community race. Months of preparation have built up to this exciting moment, with great effort invested in order to facilitate the maximum number of participants in the marathon.

Aside for Shalva’s children and their families, Shalva Team will also encompass hundreds of runners at different points in the track, as well as runners who will complete the entire 42.2 kilometer route. 555 runners are flying in from countries around the world to participate in this exhilarating event including Shalva supporters from the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Mexico, and Australia. Shalva Team runners are sponsored by assorted parties in order to raise money for the Association and enable it to absorb more children into its programs, expand existing programs, and provide greater support to families.

Running beside the Shalva kids and their families are over 300 soldiers from the Duvdevan elite special forces; police officers; combat soldiers; MDA volunteers; and many school children. Israeli’s unrivaled tennis star Shahar Pe’er, who won five singles and three doubles titles on the WTA tour, as well as four singles and three doubles titles on the ITF tour, will also join the runners alongside Olympic judoka medalist Uri Sasson; The Amazing Race host Ron Shachar; and Miss Israel Rotem Rabi.

"Shalva’s kids are an integral part of the Jerusalem Marathon," said Executive Director of Shalva Avi Samuels. "We eagerly await the event every year. Shalva’s role in the Marathon is a fundamental social declaration, a statement that we wholeheartedly embrace people who are different from us into the heart of our national community".

"This is not about a race - about winning or losing", explains Samuels, "rather about sharing and working, doing and accomplishing together on behalf of children with special needs. It’s a heartwarming project that grants children, their families, the staff and our dedicated volunteers much strength and energy to keep going. We are very grateful for the privilege to perpetuate this wonderful tradition, and we express our thanks to the Jerusalem Municipality and Mayor Nir Barkat for his continued support.”