Where were you last Sunday? Where was I last Sunday? You know where I was? At the starting line of something I anticipated for over 6 months. I still can’t believe what I did, what I worked for, what I accomplished, yet I DID IT.

Never in a million years did I think I would take on a challenge so life changing, so pivotal, than the one I completed last Sunday. Last Sunday I completed my first ever half marathon.  I was not a runner, unfit and overweight to say the least. But I had a plan, and it was to mark the 10th yarzheit  of my mom Eva. My mom was a pre school principal, and when she passed away Chai Lifeline was just about opening up shop in Toronto. I know that if she were around today, she would be passionate about the organization which I am more than proud to be a part of.

It all started back in May when I attended a Team Lifeline information night at the home of Miriam Leibowitz, a close friend, colleague and Team Manager of the Team Lifeline Canada program. I was inspired by the words of a mom who spoke about the loss of her son Avi, and how Chai Lifeline was instrumental in assisting her family in more ways than she could share.  Together this mom formed a team to honour her late son and helped raise over $50,000 as their way of giving back. After that night I knew I was sold.

Where was I to start? What was I going to do? I have never fundraised in my life! This in fact was going to be the scariest and hardest thing ever.  I embarked on this journey not knowing what lay ahead. Never did I imagine the impact and effect of all the months of training and support I was continuously provided . I’m trying hard to “move on” yet I don’t ever want to forget the feeling that was felt all weekend long. I’ll try my hardest to describe  them for you to help you understand. Basically, I’ll do my best to convince you that you have to experience it for yourself.

So what was the weekend like? It was amazing. I am eager to share with anyone I know, what the Team Lifeline weekend/Shabbat was like. It wasn’t just a Shabbaton and it wasn’t just a weekend. It was an experience. We were taken care of from the moment we landed until the moment we departed. The food was great, atmosphere was excellent and everything was extremely organized.  Following the Shabbat meals, I was more than excited to get the party started. You see I have a little anxiety when it comes to planning anything. I am organized, like to follow a plan, and yet when I’m not sure how I’ll feel, it’s hard to anticipate what will come. I got dressed pretty quickly and was more than excited to attend what is known as  the Pasta Party. It was basically a Pep Rally to get us runners excited, yet nothing could prepare me for the emotions I was going to experience and feel that night. Just walking into the lobby there was cheering, screaming and excitement all for each runner. One of my biggest cheerleaders from day one came to me to tell  me how truly proud he was of me  that I made it and how proud it made him. That’s when the tears started to flow, I made it because of the support Team Lifeline gave me. I was not allowed to quit. I was not allowed to give up. I had no excuse to not do it. That night did not disappoint and it continued to bring on the waterworks. I received a special plaque for raising over $10,000 along with 3 other friends and women of Toronto who were all first time runners like myself. Being on that stage was humbling. Yes the plaque had my name on it, but it belonged to each and everyone of my supporters because had it not been for them I would have never achieved my fundraising goal. The energy of the night kicked up again when Adina Weiss spoke courageous words of her journey and strength. After some more dancing and celebrating Team Peri’s amazing $280,000 fundraising achievement, it was off to bed early for an early start.

Yeah right, I can’t sleep, I think I showered 3 times, changed my jersey 10x, tested out my new bluetooth headphones, playlist and all, yet could not sleep.

Here’s what they don’t tell you when you’re ready to run a marathon. They don’t tell you that you’ll be on your way to the start line  more than 2 hours before your start time,  and standing for all that time. They also don’t tell you that if you want to start early, and end at a decent hour, that you should  under estimate  your race time. Wise lessons learned  and I will be sure to remember for next time.

I was finally at the starting line holding hands with my friend Gitta. I remember holding her  so tightly and kissing her hand as I was so proud to have her with me. She herself was running for her husband. We hugged, we screamed and we cried a lot! (all before 7:00 am). Finally it was our turn to go. I think I ran the first 5km in a garbage bag on top of me and then the hurricane like conditions started. I was wet, cold, shivering, hot, aching but quitting was not an option. I had trained for this. But not in these conditions. Nothing could prepare for the hurt after a marathon is completed. No one could ever get me to understand the life changing feelings one has after.

Just speaking of the weekend, I am flooded with the most special memories. Team Lifeline Canada is not just a group of people who are training for a marathon, they are a network of family and friends who are eager to have continuous newcomers join their group, all in an effort to raise the most money achievable for the kids we help. You see I have the utmost new found respect for anyone who has done this before. You and I perhaps have been solicited with emails asking for donations that say “I’m training for the Miami ½ marathon” blah blah, I personally would give to certain friends and delete those that automatically had me on their contact list. But now, today, I see it differently. I see the commitment one makes over 6 months in advance to train, fundraise, and acknowledge that they are doing something selfless all to benefit an organization they are close to and connect to. I have vowed to  always give EVEN if it’s a small amount, because first handedly I learned every dollar counts. Every dollar helped me raise over $12,000 for the kids of Chai Lifeline Canada. Would I do it again? I’m still toying with the idea. Do I ever want to miss out on this experience with my new friends and family? Definitely not.

Don’t say never, don’t assume it’s not possible, if I could achieve this goal, you can too!

To see pictures of the incredible weekend click here.


One thought on “ChaiSpotlight: Sonya Kaplan

  1. Nathalie Hadlington says:

    Wow I have to say reading this story brought tears to my eyes and I was not even there! and did not hear much about it even when Sonya returned home. I am so proud what this amazing organization does for the community and especially that they try to make every experience a fun one even for the volunteers. Even if you cannot help all the time any time is fine! This is what Chai Lifeline is all about . Helping , Sharing Laughing, Crying, Organizing, Fundraising, and of course GROWING! as they recently relocated. There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes and many countless hours that no one hears about , but I know as my sister is Sonya Kaplan. She is resilient, a fighter, a motivator , and best of all , she is MY SISTER! I am delighted and honored to hear about the success of this amazing half marathon and you have inspired many people and have influenced them as well. You exceeded your goal of 10K and even if you did not, you made a difference in the lives and families of CHAI LIFELINE. Mazal Tov on your success and organizations like this are one of a kind! This is not a job for Sonya , she has now found her passion!! and when you find that , you will be the BEST! Congratulations for all you do for CHAI LIFELINE! You are an asset to the team! and it does not go unrecognized. Everyone there is amazing Jen, Mordy , Nechama, and many more ! what a great place to work and volunteer! If you are just hearing about this organization , get involved! It is so rewarding! If you are unsure just ask SONYA!

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