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Running for the next generation

  • Comrades1
It may seem somewhat unusual that a group of fit Jewish runners are running the Comrades marathon this Sunday in aid of a medical cause – the Malka Ella Fertility Fund, but for many of them, it is the perfect fit.
by TALI FEINBERG | Jun 07, 2018

“This race requires dedication, and is often a very hard journey, but it can result in such a feeling of success and accomplishment. It is very similar to the journey of fertility, which can be long and taxing, but please G-d will result in a positive outcome,” says Suzanne Sackstein of Malka Ella.

“This initiative was the idea of Alan Jacobson and Glenn Black who were running the Comrades and wanted to make it about more than just running.”

Nine years ago, Jacobson and his running friends realised how personal the experience of the race was, and how “it focused on individual running and did nothing to contribute to society at large”. They decided they wanted to run the Comrades Marathon with a bigger purpose in mind.

“All those years ago, we and many of our friends were at the age of growing our families,” he says. “We came across many couples having trouble falling pregnant. The financial burden was an obstacle to realising their dream. At that point, we approached the Malka Ella Fund with a simple request - to run our race for the fund, and try to raise funds from fellow runners. At that point, The Malka Ella Comrades, Running for the Next Generation, was born.”

Fertility treatment is very much a marathon, not a sprint. The cycles of medication, injections, blood tests and scans, the endless waiting, the devastating losses, and the miracle highs, the endurance that the body goes through with no guarantee of reaching the finish line, is a metaphor for the Comrades if there ever was one.

“We are literally running for the next generation,” said Saul Adler, who will be running his second Comrades. “Knowing that we are benefiting this cause and thinking of all the families who are struggling to build a family helps you to get through the darkest hours of the race.”

The tradition of running the Comrades in aid of the Malka Ella Fertility Fund has become the norm for Jewish runners over the past few marathons, and this year will host the biggest group yet, with 57 runners.

All funds raised will go towards fertility treatments for Jewish couples who could otherwise not afford them. “I don’t think any of the runners have actually benefitted from the fund, but a few have known the struggles of infertility,” says Ester Unterslak of Malka Ella. The organisation’s work goes beyond funding treatment – it includes counselling for pregnancy loss and infertility, genetic testing, even freezing eggs for single women who want to preserve their fertility.

Since the inception of the Malka Ella Comrades, R 2 450 000 has been raised, resulting in the birth of 24 babies. “That is 24 lives that have been brought into this world thanks to this campaign. Each of those lives represents endless joy, nachas, and potential. None of this would be possible without every single runner who takes to the road for our campaign, every single person who contributes their time or effort, and of course every single donor,” says the Malka Ella team.

This year, the campaign is aiming to raise R720 000, which is a multiple of 18. A sum of R360 000 has been raised to date, so all contributions are appreciated. Donations can be made through the Malka Ella website: www.malkaella.co.za

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