Honouring the legacy of one individual whose 24-hour run circling an athletic track in Tacoma, Washington, in 1985, changed the face of the fight against cancer forever, Friends Of Cancer Patients (FOCP) - a UAE-based civil society organisation dedicated to provide emotional and financial support to cancer patients, will host the second edition of the UAE 'Relay for Life' walkathon on November 22 – 23, 2019 at the American University of Sharjah.
With this 24-hour walking challenge, FOCP seeks to build on the success of its first edition in 2017, an overnight event that saw the participation of more than 2,500 people including educational institutions, private and public sector entities and cancer survivors from across the UAE and the Middle Eastern region.
Today, Relay For Life is organised in more than 30 countries and has, to date, raised more than $5 billion in support of cancer patients worldwide.
The birth of this worldwide phenomenon has its humble roots in a 24-hour walking challenge undertaken by colorectal surgeon Dr. Gordy Klatt almost 35 years ago to raise funds for his local American Cancer Society office. Completing a grueling 83 miles around the track at University of Puget Sound over 24 hours, he helped raise $27,000 in the process. A repeat success the following year culminated with the launch of an everlasting legacy that has since evolved to become the largest fundraising event for cancer in the world.
In 2017, under the aegis of FOCP and in collaboration with the American Cancer Society, the UAE became the first country in the MENA region to hold the Relay For Life walkathon. The event brought together people across nationalities and age groups – 52 schools, six universities, eight partners, in addition to 37 institutions from the public and private sectors and 84 cancer survivors, joined hands in a show of solidarity that stirred socially conscious community organisations to launch the event independently last year.
The success of the first Relay in the UAE activated a wave of these walkathons across the nation. At least five organisations, including the likes of Chalhoub Group, launched their independent Relay events in 2018. This has led to the buildup of vital funds through the year, even after the FOCP event in 2017, which have been forwarded to the cancer non-profit to boost their efforts in cancer awareness, treatment and research.
Being diagnosed with cancer is a devastating blow that affects not just one individual but families, friends and caregivers of the patient as well. Participating in FOCP’s Relay For Life walkathon is an opportunity for community members to therefore stand in solidarity with those who have experienced the pain of losing a loved one, or witnessed the many ordeals of living with the disease. Cancer survivor stories shared at the event also offer a beacon of hope for those fighting the illness.
Relay For Life not only helps cancer patients emotionally, but is also a tool to raise awareness and funds to invest in cancer research to improve the lives of those diagnosed with cancer. The success of this walkathon in the UAE is an inspiring example for neighbouring countries to follow – offer the Relay For Life platform to their local communities to come together and achieve better outcomes for cancer patients.
In order to be part of the event, people can register online at http://focp.ae/relayforlifeuae/participate-form/ in three ways – as a full team (comprising two or more individuals), join an existing team, or individually. On-site registration on the day of the event will also be available. The UAE community can continue to support the cause throughout the year by registering with the ‘RFL UAE’ mobile app, which FOCP launched recently. The app connects personal health goals to fundraising for cancer patients.
This edition’s partners include Bank of Sharjah, Crescent Petroleum and the venue partner, American University of Sharjah (AUS).
Cancer has been cited as the third leading cause of death in the UAE, according to a July 2019 statistical report of the UAE National Cancer Registry. Since an estimated two-thirds of all cancers are preventable, FOCP continues on their relentless mission to promote awareness of the disease through information and education which are fundamental to cancer prevention and early detection.