ABU DHABI // Since the first feet pounded the streets of Abu Dhabi in 1995, the capital's annual Terry Fox Run has become a vital source of funding for cancer research.
Over the years the Terry Fox Foundation has made 35 grants worth Dh10.2million to research projects at UAE University.
A further seven grants have recently been approved - including, for the first time, one to the University of Sharjah.
Last year, 18,000 people turned out for the run, 3,000 more than the year before. This year, organisers expect more than 20,000.
It continues the legacy Terry Fox, a Canadian athlete and cancer research advocate who attempted a 8,000km "Marathon of Hope" in 1980, after losing his right leg to osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in 1977.
Dr Frank Branicki has been at UAEU since the collaboration began 15 years ago and is now the country's grant co-ordinator.
He says the event has been a huge boost. Previously, researchers would only have access to university funding which might be a maximum of Dh100,000 over two or three years. Now they can get about Dh100,000 a year over two or three years, with the option to apply for further funding.
"For cancer research in the UAE, it was a lifeline," he said. "Not only has it enabled researchers to get their research off the ground but it's enabled them to buy consumables and to hire research assistants, which in itself is creating a new generation of career researchers."
More than 30 countries now hold Terry Fox runs, with the money staying in the country where it is raised. In the UAE alone, it has raised Dh15m.
"We still have proceeds in hand so I'm reassured that we do have enough funding to announce another round of submissions soon," added Dr Branicki.
Terry's sister, Judith Fox-Alder, was just 16 when he died in 1981, shortly after the first Terry Fox Run in Canada. She says his legacy has given hope to millions.
Abu Dhabi's event, which began with just 100 runners, will take place tomorrow.
In the capital this week on her second trip to the UAE, Ms Fox-Alder said its success here was "almost overwhelming".
She visited UAEU and met the researchers this week. "To be able to meet them and see their projects was incredible," she said. "It's so inspiring.
"I got very emotional just to be there and realise that cancer research is being carried out by money raised in my brother's name; that one person started this and his legacy has reached so far."
According to Nasifa Taha, chair of the Terry Fox Run committee in Abu Dhabi, the event is about more than fundraising.
"Of course money is important but for me it is not about money it is about raising awareness, contributing to the community, teaching kids the art of giving and community work, inspiring the younger generation about championing a cause and fighting a sickness and never giving up just like the Terry legacy."
The other Terry Fox runs will be in Ras Al Khaimah on March 1, Fujairah on March 9 and in Fesitval City, Dubai on March 15.