Rella Itin, a beloved Israeli-Australian coach and fitness instructor, died Thursday at age 37. Her funeral was scheduled to take place on Friday at noon in Kadima, a town north of Tel Aviv where she lived.
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One of Israel’s boot camp pioneers, Itin was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer in January. After the diagnosis became public in May, several close friends organized an online fundraising campaign to assist her and her family. The campaign went viral, as donations poured in from around the globe.
“Rella had an unwavering ability to see the good in everyone and to help them see it in themselves, and a positive energy that inspired people to be the best they could be,” said Dr. Ruth Levinson, a close friend. “The overwhelming response to the campaign was a testament to how much goodness she had sown in her lifetime and countless people expressed that she had changed their lives.
“She was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and love and wanted to thank everyone individually many times over.”
For seven years, Itin ran boot camp classes in Tel Aviv and Ra’anana, which were particularly popular among English-speakers. Four years ago, she was profiled in a feature by Haaretz correspondent Danna Harman.
In addition to the online fundraising campaign, Itin’s friends and fans organized two major events for her in Tel Aviv in recent months. A special day of boot camp activities was held in her honor in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park in early June. The event was filmed so that she could watch it afterward. A fundraising event, featuring numerous performing artists, was held at the Bascula theater in late July.
Born in Israel to Russian immigrant parents, Itin moved to Australia when she was a baby. After moving back to Israel in 2003, she worked in finance before deciding to turn her passion for fitness into a full-time career. She was married with two small children.
In their fundraising appeal, organizers of the “Help Rella Fight Brain Cancer” campaign wrote on their website: ״Let's show Rella how much we love her and want to help her, and how grateful we are for everything she has done for us.
״Let's help her be free to focus on the medical treatment she needs and to spend worry-free time with her beautiful young boys, Ryan and Cody.״
In their appeal, the organizers noted that since her diagnosis, neither she nor her husband were able to work, putting the family under great financial stress. The fundraising campaign was launched in May.
Their original goal of raising 20,000 shekels was exceeded within a few days of launching the campaign.
In June, following the boot camp event, Itin posted a message to her supporters, including a group of Australians who had organized a challah-baking fundraiser on her behalf. In it, she wrote: “I hope to fight this and live through this as long as the battle can last with dignity and strength, and I hope to boot camp and eat challah with you all in older age.”