By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP
There were 30,678 runners registered to participate in the 2019 United Airlines half-marathon Sunday morning, and the lone ranger representing Friendship Circle of Dallas was 16-year-old Shira Ruttenberg.
Starting at 7:30 a.m. in Brooklyn, Shira, who trained four times a week, traversed the city in the NYC Half. Across the FDR Memorial Bridge, to 42nd Street, she crossed the finish line in Central Park 13.1 miles later, her heart even more full.
“This is my first real race and I’m really excited,” said Shira before the competition. She had family and friends cheering her on.
“I loved all of the energy at the start of the race. Seeing the people cheering us on along the route was amazing. It was so fun seeing my mom, sister, cousin and Mendy (Leah Dubrawsky’s brother) along the route.”
Surpassing her goal, she hopes to raise more, At presstime, with $2,287 Shira is in fifth place of all Friendship Circle, International participants. The majority of the money she raised will support Friendship Circle of Dallas.
“I love what Friendship Circle stands for and I’ve absolutely made a lot of friends, learned a lot, and had a lot of fun in the program,” said Shira, who serves on the Friendship Circle of Dallas board. “For the past two years, I have enjoyed music classes, baking, arcades and so much more with my friends in the ‘Circle.’”
Team Friendship, of the Friendship Circle, International, affiliated worldwide with Chabad Lubavitch, runs the miles every day of the year, spreading their mission that every individual is deserving of love, respect, and most importantly, friendship. Around the world, the Friendship Circle brings happiness and companionship to children and adults with special needs by celebrating their individuality, as well as bringing energy, support, and peace of mind to their families.
The Friendship Circle of Dallas hosts programs and activities throughout the year. On May 19, the Dallas chapter will host its first Walk 4 Friendship, and Shira has raised more than $2,000 to participate in that event.
“Shira is awesome and she comes from a cool family who all care,” said Leah Dubrawsky, director of the Dallas Friendship Circle. “She took the plunge to participate alone and represent our chapter, and we really appreciate her support and all we’ll be able to share with our teens because of her fundraising. She’s really a very special person.”
The Columbus, Ohio native is the daughter of Abigail and Yoni, and sister of Aliza. The family are members of Chabad of Dallas and Shira is a camper of Camp Stone in Pennsylvania. A sophomore and Student Ambassador at Fusion Academy, Shira participates with Yachad/The National Jewish Council for Disabilities and the Dallas Chapter of the National Council of Synagogue Youth.
In her free time — rare for this busy teen — she enjoys baking, reading, traveling, ice skating and swimming. In the summer, she will travel to Israel as a part of Yad b’Yad, Yachad’s inclusive leadership experience.
Shira began making mitzvahs as a second-grader at Akiba. She helped spearhead collections, which Judy and son Jacob Wisch delivered to the community of Joplin, Missouri, after its devastating tornado. She’s has shared in many food drives for the homeless, for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, and she regularly delivers homebaked goods to the police and fire departments near her home.
“Her father and I have always taught the girls from when they were little that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected,” said Abigail. “Shira is the first one to bake cookies or a challah and bag it up with a pretty ribbon for her teachers ‘just because.’ Her heart is always in the place of giving.”
Shira, who began fundraising and training for the half-marathon last summer, sent a letter to friends and family, used social media, and turned to her school for support.
“Shira has shared her passion for Friendship Circle and we are so excited and thrilled to have been able to help her reach, and surpass, her goal,” said Tanya Goforth, head of school at Fusion Academy. “Supporting her through this absolutely meets the compassion and tolerance education that Fusion Academy provides. Beyond the academics, we absolutely believe and want to support our students to be better and more caring human beings.”
Shira loves what Friendship Circle stands for.
“Everyone needs a friend, and Friendship Circle reminds us that we are like a circle with no beginning or end; everyone is welcome and accepted,” she said. “I just want to share that message.”