3,000 Participants Unite To Celebrate Survivors And Remember Lives Affected By Cancer At RFL 2019
A 24-hour walkathon organised by UAE-based Friends Of Cancer Patients is currently underway at American University of Sharjah
The atmosphere at the athletic tracks of the American University of Sharjah (AUS) was truly awe-inspiring, as over 3,000 participants including 200 volunteers committed themselves to a 24-hour walkathon yesterday (Friday) at the second UAE edition of Relay For Life – the largest fundraising event for cancer in the world.
On the same day that relayers were walking the tracks in South Africa, India and the US, the UAE community too rallied together in an emotional portrayal of support for cancer survivors, patients and caregivers with the participation of 10 schools, 5 universities, 13 sponsors and 20 public and private entities.
Organised by UAE-based Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP) in collaboration with the American Cancer Society, a large community of supporters cheered on as RFL 2019 commenced with an inspiring walk around the athletic tracks. Accompanied by Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Founding Board Member of FOCP, the first to walk were cancer survivors, followed by the FOCP team in celebration of the organisation’s 20th anniversary, followed by the caregivers and relay teams.
Earlier, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, was given a tour of the event venue by HE Sawsan Jafar, Chairperson of the Board of Directors, FOCP.
“The act of giving is what shapes our humanity and defines our values,” said HE Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qassimi, Founding Board Member of FOCP, in her message to participants, while emphasising Sharjah’s commitment to the betterment of its people.
“We gather today in Sharjah which has always catered for, championed and prioritised the wellbeing of its people, following the lead of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Founder and Royal Patron of FOCP, who believe that the building blocks of a strong society are informed, cultured, and most importantly, healthy individuals,” she said.
“Today is an exceptional testimony of this commitment,” she continued. “Hand in hand, we stand to relay help, peace and love to heroes who turned the cancer tide with hope, faith and determination. Relay For Life once again ignites the spark of hope,” she said. “What we experience today is a demonstration of selfless humanity and dedication.”
Thanking participants for joining RFL 2019, she added, “With every step you take today, you nurture a more empathetic UAE.”
In her address at the event, HE Sawsan Jafar, Chairperson of the Board of Directors, FOCP, said: “We are gathered here today in large numbers to fight a disease that can change lives in dramatic ways. Each and every one of us present here today represents a symbol of hope for a healthier future for all.”
Commending the relayers for their incredible devotion and commitment, she noted, “Through every step you take, every dirham you help raise, and the hours you spend on the tracks, you will continue to make an enormous impact in our joint fight against cancer. Your collective selfless devotion has shown us that no one has to face cancer alone.”
Relay For Life is more than just a fundraiser, she added. “It sends a powerful message of solidarity to the whole community. That even through our struggles and despite unfortunate occasions of losing a loved one, we can still find the courage and strength to march on and inspire change.”
Calling cancer as a “great equaliser”, Kristen Solt, Managing Director of Global Relay for Life, referred to Relay For Life as the “great unifier.”
More than 2 million relayers in 30 countries across the globe come together and nearly 4,000 RFL events last year, she said. “We come together as cancer societies and communities and our voices will be heard, bringing us one step closer to our goal of a world without cancer.”
FOCP, she said, was “leading the fight against cancer in the region, using relay to elevate the conversation about cancer and bringing hope to so many people; because of your support and the services you provide, cancer survivors will proudly walk this track, showing the world that cancer can be beaten.”
“Relay unites us, no matter where we live,” she added.
Other attendees at the event included HE Noura Al Noman, Chairperson of The Executive office of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi; HE Humaid Jafar, Founder and Chairperson of Crescent Petroleum; Varouj Nerguizian, CEO, Bank of Sharjah; HE Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment; FOCP Board Members: HE Adalat Nakkash, HE Areej Dewaik and HE Meera Taryam.
Silence enveloped the arena as a video depicting the overwhelming impact cancer and its treatment has on the individual and their families and personal lifestyles was screened. Mirroring the theme of Relay For Life, this video thoughtfully illustrated that just as important as the selfless support from loved ones was the personal determination to build courage and brave the challenges to fight the odds and beat cancer.
RFL 2019, which commenced at 4pm today continued through the night, and providing light and inspiration were the hundreds of Luminaria candles bearing personalised messages to honour the memories of loved ones and celebrate survivors.
At the symbolic ‘Give a Ghaf’ planting ceremony introduced for the first time this year; participants planted a living monument in memory of their loved ones.
Several themed laps added the fun element, as participants upped the entertainment quotient at the walkathon with the ‘Greatest Hits Lap’, ‘Make a Friend lap’, ‘Superhero lap’ amongst several others. Other entertainment activities included live band performances and DJs, comedy acts, poetry and storytelling.
Relay for Life has its roots in the USA where colorectal surgeon Dr. Gordy Klatt organised the first event in 1985 singlehandedly raising $27,000 for his local cancer charity. To date, Relay For Life has raised more than $5 billion (AED18.3 billion) in support of cancer patients worldwide.
Those interested can support the cause throughout the year by registering with the newly launched ‘RFL UAE’ mobile app that connects personal health goals to fundraising for cancer patients. The app can track users’ steps all year round, enabling them to raise a particular value in funds upon completing the fitness goal attached to each.
At a special ceremony held at the start of the event, Sheikha Lubna honoured the main partners of the event - Crescent Petroleum, Bank of Sharjah, and American Cancer Society, and its supporting partners – American University of Sharjah, National Network Communication, Bee’ah, Skechers, Fresh Fruits Company, Fibre Optic Suppliers & Services LLC, Sajaya Young Ladies of Sharjah, Sharjah Ladies Club, and Qimah Volunteering Team.
RFL 2019 will conclude at 4pm Saturday at AUS.