Don’t let a disability stop you from becoming an athlete.
That is the message being spread by one Brooklyn couple who firmly believes that exercise is for everyone.
Ilana Zablozki-Amir and her husband Mark Amir of Manhattan Beach have recently launched a Brooklyn chapter of the Achilles Track Club.
The club’s mission is to enable people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream athletics, particularly long-distance running.
Achilles is a worldwide organization with chapters in 60 countries.
The organization works to promote personal achievement, boost self-esteem and break down some of the barriers that disabled athletes face.
“People should not feel limited by their disabilities,” Zablozki-Amir told this newspaper.
“In an encouraging, supportive setting, people can do miraculous things,” she stated.
Zablozki-Amir believes that the Achilles Track Club is the perfect supportive setting that can foster greatness.
That is why she and her husband are working to establish the local chapter and to get the word out to potential members and volunteers.
The new Brooklyn chapter currently meets at Prospect Park on Sunday mornings at 10am.
Neither Zablozki-Amir nor her husband is disabled, but their professions have introduced them to many people with impairments and have instilled in them a desire to reach out to this group.
Dr. Ilana Zablozki-Amir is a physician. Her medical specialty is physical medicine and rehabilitation.
Mark Amir is a physical therapist. His practice, Madison Physical and Occupational Therapy, has four locations in Brooklyn including Sheepshead Bay, Canarsie, Bay Ridge and Brooklyn Heights.
An attempt earlier this year to kick start the club in Marine Park didn’t take off, but the couple hopes the new location in Prospect Park will prove to be more popular.
“We’re looking for members and volunteers to really get the chapter going,” Zablozki-Amir said.
“It’s not just about races. It’s for fun, fitness and socialization,” she said.
This is the second Achilles chapter Zablozki-Amir has launched.
She started a chapter in Verona, New Jersey about a decade ago during her medical residency and witnessed first-hand the tremendous strides disabled athletes were able to make.
The Achilles Track Club was established by Dick Traum in 1983 to encourage disabled people to participate in long-distance running with the general public.
Traum, an above-the-knee amputee, now serves as the organization’s president.
On its website, the non-profit group states that it provides “support, training and technical expertise to runners at all levels.”
The inspiring members of Achilles include people with all kinds of disabilities, including visual impairment, stroke, cerebral palsy, paraplegia, arthritis, amputation, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, head injury and cancer.
Runners participate with crutches, in wheelchairs, with prosthesis and without any aids at all.
The club was founded in New York City and has since expanded literally across the world with 110 chapters on six different continents.
There are 40 chapters in the United States and there are also groups of Achilles runners that gather in faraway places like Norway, New Zealand and Japan.
In conjunction with other organizations, Achilles programs provide prostheses and sports wheelchairs for members.
Achilles is involved in many running events including the New York City Marathon. Every year the organization sponsors a large number of disabled runners.
Membership in Achilles is free and includes participation in races, coaching and workout sessions, team T-shirts and a newsletter.
“You become part of a group,” said Zablozki-Amir.
“We hope we can become a resource for anyone with any kind of disability and that they will feel comfortable to come out and move and get active” she said.
The Brooklyn Achilles Track Club chapter meets on Sundays at 10am in Prospect Park at the Peristyle across from the parade grounds, which is off of Parkside Avenue between Ocean Avenue and Coney Island Avenue.
The chapter is still in its infancy and is so far still very small, but it is hoped new members will soon join the group.
The chapter’s founders want members to run in Prospect Park year round, weather permitting. Future plans will depend on the size of the group and their wishes.
There will be no run in Prospect Park on June 22nd, as members will be participating in the Hope and Possibility 5M Run/ Walk in Central Park.
For more information about the Brooklyn chapter, visit www.madisonptot.com or call Ilana Zablozki-Amir at (718) 614 4575.
More information about the Achilles Track Club can be found at www.achill