NEW YORK (CBS 2) — When Israeli solider Gadi Yarkoni lost his sight in Lebanon 15 years ago, it only took a short time before he decided he wasn’t going to live in the dark anymore.
CBSNewYork GUIDE: The New York City Marathon
“After I got blind, ten months after it I said to my wife and my friends, I said, ‘I need a guide dog because this is my freedom,’” Yarkoni said.WATCH: CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu reports
Yarkoni then met Timmy, a guide dog who has given Yarkoni such independence that he wants to spread the word. Now, Yarkoni is running in Sunday’s New York City Marathon to raise awareness and money for the Guide Dog Center for the Blind in Israel.
Yarkoni will be tethered to Noach Braun, who founded the center in 1991. Before that, Israelis who were visually impaired had to come to New York to find a guide dog.
“It’s the language barrier, the cultural barrier, the mentality, and then finishing getting the dog here, coming back home to Israel no one would help and support and give the follow-up,” Braun said.
Braun and his wife Orna both train the dogs in Hebrew and have trained more than 400 dogs.
“When you’re next visiting Israel, come stop by, the 2 legged and the 4 legged they are very cute, so come visit us,” Noach Braun said of his Tel Aviv center, which was also the first in Israel.
While this will be the first marathon for Braun and Yarkoni, veteran marathon runner Mike Reznik will be running alongside. Reznik has run nine marathons, but said this one will be the most exciting and inspiring.
“I think the message that these 2 are bringing is that everything is possible, everything is possible,” Reznik said.
It takes two years and $25,000 to train each guide dog, but the center is a non-profit and there is no charge to the visually impaired person.