Tatyana McFadden: A Formidable Force in Wheelchair Racing

Tatyana McFadden just won the Boston Marathon for wheelchair racing. This was her fourth victory with a time of 1:42:16. As she told People Magazine,

“It was tough and there was a headwind. I’m exhausted, but crossing the finish line definitely felt amazing. The crowd was really electric and helped carry all of us when we were tired and beaten down.”

Her win, however, is less impressive than her life story. Born with sina bifida, she spent the first six years of her life scooting around on her hands since the Russian orphanage where she lived had no wheelchairs. She wasn’t expected to survive, but she was adopted by two American women who nursed her to health and watched her become an incredible athlete.
She is the first person to ever win all four of the world’s major wheelchair racing marathons, having scooped wins in London, Boston, Chicago and New York. At the Paralympics in Rio, she will be competing in seven track and field events.

Doctor Cycling Around the World

bike-1080079_960_720It is awe-inspiring to read about people who have changed their own lives in order to change the lives of others. Dr. Steven Fabes is one of those. He has cycled 53,285 miles in the last six years to help and empower others. In 2010, the doctor left London to get on a bicycle and he has, so far, cycled across Europe, Africa, South America, Central and North America, Australia and Asia. His travel blog, Cycling the 6, shares stories of his experiences.

He wanted, at first, to exist on $10 a day, but he ran out of money after three years. Since then, he has been making money as a public speaker and freelance writer and with the sponsors he has for his gear. As he said, “I’ve honestly never considered giving up. The hardest times have been during a winter crossing of Mongolia – a lonely, difficult place, especially when it’s minus 35 at night!”

During the six years, he has raised more than £20,000 for the medical NGO Merlin(before they merged with another NGO in 2013) and he has shared his skills with many in need. He is now nearing the end of his adventure and plans to return to the UK soon to write a book about his adventures.


Surprises for Soldiers with the Help of the IFCJ with Yael Eckstein

Sometimes the challenges that people face do get recognized – and rewarded. Israel has many lone soldiers – boys and girls who come to serve in the Israeli army on their own. And without their parents in the country to do their laundry and cook them a meal, they are left to fend for themselves. Recently, when 20 such lone soldiers were honored as outstanding lone soldiers in a ceremony at the Kirya military headquarters, they got quite a surprise.

Their mothers, and a few fathers, walked up behind them and hugged them. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews paid for the surprise, bringing 20 mothers and three fathers to surprise their hard-working children. The parents came from Canada, the United States, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina and India.

IFCJ, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, founded by Rabbi Eckstein and with Senior Vice President Yael Eckstein, treated the families to a 30 minute cruise along the Tel Aviv-Jaffa coast, a steak dinner and a visit to Independence Hall. They also received (in addition to their flights, of course), spending money to go out for two more dinners and a week’s stay at the Crowne Plaza luxury hotel in the Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv.

Some of the parents had amazing journeys getting to Israel. Shlomo Touthang’s mother lives in Manipur, India and he last saw her three years ago when he set out for Israel. He’s now serving in a reconnaissance unit of the Golani Brigade. It took two days for his parents, Daniel and Hoikhoneng, to reach Israel. As he said after seeing his parents, “I was so surprised and excited when I saw her on the stage. It was my dream for my mother to see me as a soldier.”

Marharyta Zaitsava from Belarus also shared details about her son, Gnadi Steinman. He is a corporal in the Teleprocessing Branch. She said, “My son couldn’t even voluntarily enroll in the army in Belarus because he had health problems. But when he went to the IDF, he felt much better, and that made me feel much better.”

Unique Exhibit: Helly Nahmad Gallery & Phoenix Ancient Art

abstract-867306_640The Helly Nahmad Gallery in New York is about to open a cutting-edge exhibit called “Mnemosyne: de Chirico and Antiquity.” Partnering with antiquities dealer Phoenix Ancient Art, owned by brothers Hicham Aboutaam and Ali Aboutaam, the gallery will display paintings by Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico next to Greek and Roman antiquities.

The paintings about to go on display will include Chirico’s Neo-classical style which is a less explored aspect of his work. And they are being paired with marble statues, vases, bronze armor and other works by Phoenix Ancient Art. These pieces from the Phoenix private collections have never been exhibited alongside each other – let alone alongside Modern art.

As a release for the exhibit explains, “The exhibition hopes to help cultivate an environment where antiquity is appreciated in a modern context and vigilantly guarded for future generations to study and enjoy.”

Mnemosyne: de Chirico and Antiquity opens to the public on November 4th and will continue until December 23rd at the Helly Nahmad Gallery at 975 Madison Avenue. Due to the fragile nature of the antiques and the value of the works, attendance will be limited and large groups will need prior consent to enter.

Teach For America, Boston College & Francisco D’Agostino

teach for americaTeach For America is a program with which every college student should be familiar. They work in partnership with communities to expand the educational opportunities for children who face poverty. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits college graduates for a two-year commitment to teach in high-need areas.

Recently, Boston College, where Francisco D’Agostino graduated with a BS in Economics and Finance, ranked 5th in the country among medium sized colleges and universities that contribute their alumni to Teach For America. In the 2014 teaching corps, there were 29 Boston College graduates and approximately 400 Boston College alumni have served in total in the program.

In the medium school category, Boston College was beat only by Howard University, Vanderbilt University, George Washington University and Harvard. The top five schools that contribute to Teach For America in the large school category were, in order, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Arizona State University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Southern California, and University of California-Los Angeles.

Certainly, alumni from these schools, like Francisco D’Agostino, have something to be proud of with these results. And Teach For America is certainly a program worth looking into for those graduating soon from college.

Want Your Kids To Be Better Readers? Get Them Moving!

readA new study led by author Professor Charles Hillman of the University of Illinois shows that you might want to get your kids out for more exercise to improve their reading. Children who are physically fit have faster brain responses when reading than do their less fit peers, according to the study.

They explain that they did not prove that higher levels of fitness don’t guarantee better reading proficiency, but they do see a connection.

The researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) to capture electrical impulses associated with brain activity for reading and doing other activities. Researchers looked at brain waveforms N400 and P600 and found that children who were more fit had higher amplitude N400 and P600 waves than their less-fit friends when reading sentences.

As Professor Hillman explained, “Previous reports have shown that greater N400 amplitude is seen in higher-ability readers…All we know is there is something different about higher and lower fit kids. But more work must be done to tease out the causes of improved cognition in kids who are more fit.”

As Professor Hillman concluded, “Many studies conducted in the last decade, on children and older adults have repeatedly demonstrated an effect of increases in either physical activity in one’s lifestyle or improvements in aerobic fitness, and the implications of those health behaviors for brain structure, brain function and cognitive performance.”