SPRINGFIELD, NJ — Joseph Volfman, 17, of Springfield joined 30,000 others at the Miami Marathon on Sunday, Jan. 29. Volfman didn’t walk or run during the 26.2 mile course; instead he used a handcycle designed specifically for him to travel the roadways filled with tropical sights and sounds.
Volfman, who attends Jonathan Dayton High School, joined Team Friendship on the marathon course to help raise money for Friendship Circle, which provides programs and services for people with special needs and their families. Volfman, who has cerebral palsy, received his first bike five years ago from a Friendship Circle’s “Olivia’s Friendship Cycle” program.
“There are many organizations that participate in the marathon and each group raises funds for their organization,” Zalman Grossbaum of Friendship Circle told LocalSource in an email. “People can participate in the marathon as individuals or they can join a team of their choice. The Friendship Circle team has about 250 participants from all over the world, including 20 from New Jersey.”
Volfman purchased the handcycle himself with the help of some friends. It was his idea to participate in the marathon and join the Friendship Circle team. Other participants also used cycles to complete the course.
“The Miami Marathon has a significant group of athletes with physical challenges who participate in the marathon with various cycles,” Grossbaum said.
In preparation for the marathon, Volfman went through a rigorous training schedule and broke in his new cycle.
“I train three hours a day, seven days a week with Children’s Specialized Hospital Lightning Wheels,” Volfman told LocalSource in a recent phone interview. “In addition to cycling, I also include swimming, track and field, archery and power lifting in my workout routine. My goal is to train for the Olympics in four years.”
His mother, Elizabeth Volfman, is proud of her son’s achievements.
“Friendship Circle, Lightning Wheels and Nobody Denied, the name of Joseph’s gym, have all been great support systems. It takes a village to raise a child,” Elizabeth Volfman told LocalSource in a phone interview. “I’m very proud of the progress he’s made.”
In addition to the full marathon that took place in Miami’s American Airlines Arena, there was also a half marathon. The marathons began at 6 a.m. and were followed by a post-race party from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Bayfront Park.
“Team Friendship Circle has given me the opportunity to meet new people who give me hope, train me and treat me like a regular person,” Joseph Volfman said. “We are trained like regular athletes, not as a person with a disability. These people are like my second family. I can be myself around them.”
According to the teen, his disability has empowered him, and he doesn’t feel limited by it in the least.
“I truly believe anything is possible if I put my mind to it,” he said. “I want to break stereotypes that people have about disabilities. It empowers me because I realize I have a purpose in life. My disability gives me opportunities in life that I might not have had otherwise. Participating in the Miami Marathon is my way of giving back to an organization that helped me.”