“Creating a world where everyone belongs” How Run Ottawa races became a pillar of L’Arche Ottawa’s community

L’Arche is a participating charity of the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend Desjardins Charity Challenge. To make a donation to the organization, please visit their fundraising page.

Since its start in 1972, L’Arche Ottawa has been more than a home for people living with intellectual disabilities. It’s a community, a place for people to learn, gather and contribute to the world in their own way.  

L’Arche Ottawa is a group of men and women from a variety of cultures and abilities who live together and support each other. It’s a place where community members living with intellectual disabilities can flourish, create and make a difference. According to their mission statement, “L’Arche demonstrates that when all people, including the most marginalized, take their place, society becomes more human – more colourful, welcoming, creative, compassionate, and joyful.”

Every year, members of L’Arche dust off their running shoes and join tens of thousands of people to take part in various Run Ottawa events like the Richmond Road Races in January and Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend in May.  

“It’s a wonderful time to come together with other people in Ottawa and beyond and see what we can do together,” says Nora Lora, Mary Carmen Ramos and Henrietta Bruneel, coordinators at L’Arche. 

“It feels like all the runners are glad to see people of all ages and abilities participating. We feel like we belong, which is so much more than just being included. We can choose the race that best fits our abilities, and everyone cheers as we walk, roll or run along…Whether running or cheering, there’s space for everyone. It reinforces the true meaning of a community event,” 

Their participation in Run Ottawa events started in 2013, when one ​​of their community members with disabilities, Michele Mandoli, expressed interest in Tamarack Ottawa Race Week and ran with L’Arche’s Henrietta and Joelle. Having had such a great time, they encouraged others to join them for future runs, and since then, L’Arche has participated in numerous races each year. 

“We love getting our registration bibs and we create our own t-shirts for all the L’Arche Ottawa runners, sometimes even hats. We like registering in whatever race suits our abilities and we love telling stories about our experience after the race and receiving our medals.”

“Many people have been involved in every race. Michele passed away in 2021, and even though her health was poor, she participated in the 2020 virtual race. It’s the sense of community and joy that keeps us coming back. We have a great time together and love seeing everyone out for the races doing their personal best.”

For L’Arche, a charitable organization that relies on donors and volunteers to support their mission, Run Ottawa events are not only a fun time for participants but also an important fundraising opportunity. 

“We also use these races as a “friendraiser” and a fundraiser. We send out notices on our Facebook page, our newsletter and other social media sites. Sometimes people meet us as we’re getting ready to run and want to run with us or become volunteers. Donors are generous when we ask for support as we prepare for the race. Often a donor sponsors a particular participant. We have a bit of friendly rivalry to see who can raise the most funds or has the most donors. And, we celebrate everyone!”

As for how to support L’Arche Ottawa, “if people are interested in volunteering with members of l’Arche Ottawa, we invite you to contact our Volunteer Coordinator: Mary Carmen Ramos, 613-228-7136 ext. 26, mcramos@larcheottawa.org. There are lots of opportunities! She will match your interests with an opportunity in l’Arche Ottawa.” 

Donate to L’Arche now!