Sharjah, the third largest of the United Arab Emirate’s seven emirates, was the host for the MENA region’s first ever ‘Global Relay for Life,’ (RFL) a 24-hour walkathon that is the biggest fundraising event for cancer in the world. Conducted in conjunction with the American Cancer Society, the event was organised by Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP), a non-profit organisation that supports cancer patients and their families.Taking place November 17-18 at the American University Sharjah, the inaugural UAE RFL saw more than 2,000 relayers participating in the overnight event, with a large number of individuals and institutions involved including 52 schools, six universities, eight partners, in addition to 37 institutions from the public and private sectors and 67 cancer survivors.Included in the programme for the 24 hours was an extensive array of activities in a kids’ fun area, a ‘Luminaria’ candle illumination event to remember loved ones who had died of cancer and a ‘Survivors’ Tent’ that saw a number of those who had defeated the disease address audiences. Participants’ hunger was kept assuaged by a host of food and refreshment stands, all of which donated their proceeds to FoCP.
The first UAE RFL was launched by Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi, Founder and Royal Patron of FoCP, International Ambassador of the World Cancer Declaration for the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and International Ambassador for Childhood Cancer for UICC. Her Highness joined cancer survivors in the first lap of the walkathon, highlighting the importance of raising awareness of the disease and the necessity of screening for its early detection – the most important factor in survival and recovery. The 24 hour nature of RFL is designed to highlight that cancer is a disease that doesn’t sleep and to show solidarity with cancer patients who can feel a sense of loneliness during the small hours.RFL has its roots in the USA when in 1985 Dr. Gordon Klatt, a colorectal surgeon, raised $27,000 for his local cancer charity by walking for 24 hours. The event currently takes place in 29 countries, with the UAE the most recent addition to the global network. To date RFL raised more than $5 billion in support of cancer patients worldwide.
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