Our weekend with Team Friendship in Miami was nothing short of inspirational and fun! We were surrounded by enthusiasm, camaraderie, friendship and acceptance, and great food! Everyone loved Sam, “What’s not to love?” as my mother used to say.
We flew into Miami on Friday with Liz and met Chanale at the airport. Their excitement was contagious. We arrived at the hotel and after checking-in, went to the banquet hall to meet Team Friendship.
At every turn Binie, or one of the other staff were there to direct us and answer questions. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. Sam and Liz picked up their race packets and shirts. Some people came up to Sam and recognized him from his fundraising page. We then settled at a table to relax and enjoy the lunch spread while waiting for our hotel rooms. The view from the banquet room was awesome; it overlooked the Biscayne Bay.
After getting into our hotel room we finally convinced Sam to take a little nap, while Glen and I strolled around downstairs and had some grownup time. Dinner was delicious followed by speeches that inspired everyone. Someone said the speeches reminded us all why we were there – Friendship.
On Shabbat, we relaxed during the day enjoying the breakfast buffet and lunch while meeting more and more Team Friendship participants. Everyone was interested in meeting Sam. At dinner, the atmosphere was intense with everyone gearing up for the race in the morning. There were more inspiring speeches and then they played the Sam’s Story video and I gave my keynote speech. At the end Sam and Liz came up to the podium a got a huge round of applause! After that Meir Kay took over and got everyone on their feet dancing and singing. Sam had a blast on the stage dancing with some of the other children. Then he went to the other side with the men and danced some more. He loved it when they put him up on a chair and raised him in the air! We finally had to coax him to come upstairs at 10PM since he had to be back downstairs at 4AM ready to run.
It was difficult for all of us to fall asleep because we were so excited about the next day. Still Sam was ready on Sunday morning when we woke him at 3:30AM. Miraculously, the forecast changed during the night from 100% chance of rain to almost no chance of rain. Glen took him downstairs to meet Liz and the other runners. I went back to sleep for a couple more hours, but I know that they took lots of pictures before walking to the start line. Liz couldn’t get into Sam’s corral (C) to run with him, so Sam went into her corral (K). They were running by 7AM. Chanale met Glen and me for breakfast and we walked to Mile 11, where Team Friendship had set up a cheering section. Again, the excitement and energy was palpable with everyone cheering and jumping up and down as the runners passed us. We cheered and danced to the music provided by Meir Kay and his DJ.
Watching Sam and Liz pass Mile 11 was amazing. We all tried to jump in front of them to take pictures and they kept dodging us. They were serious about the running.
After Sam and Liz passed, we walked and took a short train ride to the finish line so that we could see them cross. Unfortunately we missed them, but caught up to them at Team Friendship’s tent. They looked fabulous and were gleaming as much as their huge, shiny medals around their necks. They felt good, not sore, amazingly. It was so much fun congratulating all of the Team Friendship runners.
We made our way back to the hotel, thanks to the bracelets they gave to the runners, that had directions on them leading us to take a short train ride to a stop near the hotel. It was nice to see the many other runners on the train and as we walked to the hotel. I think Sam felt great being a part of this event.
Once in the hotel, Liz told Sam she’d meet us in the banquet room for the celebratory luncheon but she was going to take her time. Sam took his shower and dressed in record time and texted Liz that he was ready. We convinced him to chill out and give her a break.
When we got downstairs to the banquet hall, it seemed that everyone was walking on air with relief and joy, even those of us that didn’t run. We ate, relaxed and visited, heard race stories, and wished everyone congratulations and a safe trip home.
Eventually Liz, Sam, Glen and I got an Uber to an Airbnb near the airport. We rested a bit and then walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Sam and Liz were remarkably fine with walking. When we left, the rain that was supposed to have come down during race had finally arrived. It was pouring, so we ubered back to the Airbnb. Exhausted we went to sleep and got up early (although not as early as when we came out) to get to the airport. Our flight was on time and smooth, thankfully. The Jewish Pop Artist Yitzchok Moully (moullyart.com), who we met at Team Friendship, happened to be on the same flight as us and told the flight attendant about Sam running the half marathon. She made an announcement over the intercom congratulating Sam for completing the Miami half marathon, and entire plane gave him a round of applause! He loved it. A great ending to a great weekend!