ABU DHABI // More than 20,000 eager walkers, runners and roller-bladers turned out yesterday for the annual Terry Fox Run for cancer.
The 8.5-kilometre run - the capital's 18th - raises funds for research in memory of the Canadian cancer victim for whom it was named.
Held in about 30 countries, it continues the legacy left by Fox, who tried to finish an 8,000km trek with a prosthetic right leg after losing his to osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in 1977 when he was 18.
Yesterday his sister, Judith Fox-Alder, attended the Abu Dhabi event for the second time.
"I'm going to cry, I'm so touched," she told the crowd. "I'm so proud. Today in the UAE, I know Terry is smiling down on us."
Abu Dhabi hosts the largest Terry Fox event outside of Canada.
Arif Lalani, Canada's new ambassador, was amazed at the turnout.
Mr Lalani spoke of Terry's devotion to a cause that was "not for himself but for others", devoting the remaining days of his life to what is now an international legacy.
"The fact that for 18 years this has been going on here reflects the compassion of the Emiratis and everyone who lives here and this joins us in the fight against cancer," he said.
The event was started by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research. More than 20 schools and 45 companies entered teams, including a grandson of President Sheikh Khalifa, Sheikh Khalifa bin Sultan.
The state news agency Wam said Dh337,533 was raised this year.
The Canadian-curriculum Abu Dhabi Grammar School has been raising money and teaching its pupils about the Canadian hero.
Karen McCutchon's daughter Teighan, 5, in her first official event yesterday, is a pupil at the school.
"I think the race is so successful because it's such a family event," said Mrs McCutchon, 33.
"Some people do it as a proper race but it seems so much more of a family event, which is why there's such a large turnout."
Mrs McCutchon has also been taking part in the runs and fund-raising since she was five, and says they are a part of Canadian culture.
Last year she ran in the Abu Dhabi event for the first time and was delighted to see about 18,000 participants.
She says Teighan, her eldest daughter, has been helping to educate her classmates on the legacy left by Fox.
Her youngest daughter Kaleigh, nearly two, enjoyed her first run from the comfort of the buggy.
Jordanian Rana Daoudieh attended with her family, including her nine-year-old son, nephews and sisters.
Preparing to walk the event, she said: "I've been doing the event since 2007. It's good for exercise and it's fun."
Nafisa Taha, who has organised the event since it began in Abu Dhabi, said at its heart remained a universal cause: "It's about never giving up until we find a cure for cancer."
Kirsten Fleming, chief executive of the Calgary Marathon in Canada, said: "I have run in a number of Terry Fox runs in different parts of Canada and the energy is all the same. People are hopeful and energised by his spirit, even 32 years after his death.
"Many of us who participate in Terry Fox runs weren't even alive when he was running across Canada, yet I bet there isn't a single Canadian who doesn't know about the ordinary man with an extraordinary strength.
"In my province of Alberta there are over 100 runs alone. It really says something about humanity and what we must have needed at that time that he has had such a lasting impact.
"The fact that people run and raise money in his name worldwide to this day is amazing."