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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

In with a fighting chance to find a cure for a deadly disease

Employees at property firm Emaar rally round to raise funds for research after colleague was stricken with motor neuron disease

Peter Van Wyk, a senior director at Emaar, pictured with the company's chairman Mohamed Alabbar at a charity art auction. Peter was diagnosed with ALS, a form of motor neuron disease. 
Emaar has been raising funds for the condition and donating them to Al Jalila Foundation.
The auction raised a total of US$87,725 (over AED 322,000). Emaar doubled the funds to a total of US$175,450 (over AED 644,000). All proceeds from ticket sales for the event will also be contributed to Al Jalila Foundation.
Peter Van Wyk, a senior director at Emaar, pictured with the company's chairman Mohamed Alabbar at a charity art auction. Peter was diagnosed with ALS, a form of motor neuron disease. Emaar has been raising funds for the condition and donating them to Al Jalila Foundation. The auction raised a total of US$87,725 (over AED 322,000). Emaar doubled the funds to a total of US$175,450 (over AED 644,000). All proceeds from ticket sales for the event will also be contributed to Al Jalila Foundation.

When Peter Van Wyk was diagnosed with the muscular degenerative disease ALS, he realised he would need all the help he could get.

It was more than fighting a disease that has no known cure. Mr Van Wyk was determined to do everything in his power to fund further research help others who might contract his condition.

With help from his colleagues at Emaar, the Dubai property developer, the senior director of hospitality development at the company has seen nearly Dh700,000 raised for research and awareness campaigns for ALS in the UAE.

Mr Van Wyk described the efforts of what he called “my Emaar family” as “heart-warming,” adding: “Being diagnosed with ALS was difficult but I decided that it was important for the world, especially the region here, to know more about the condition so that it helps people be vigilant about the symptoms.”

Among the fund-raising efforts was an SMS donation line shared largely through the Emaar network that raised Dh20,000 alone.

His colleagues at Emaar employees were also encouraged to change their WhatsApp and social media profile pictures to the #CHALLENGEALSDXB logo.

The Emaar Foundation, the property company’s corporate social responsibility wing, took the opportunities presented by Ramadan to organise a charity iftar and an art auction to support the cause.

With works by leading international artists like eL Seed, Mattar Bin Lahej, Beth Cullen Kerridge, Anna Masters, Petr Weigl, Ben Barrell, Fadi Sarieddine, and Khalid Shafar, and held at the Armani Hotel, the auction raised over Dh322,000, which was matched by Emaar.

Proceeds of ticket sales for the event was also donated to the Al Jalifa Foundation, the medical research organisation established by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Mohamed Alabbar, the chairman of Emaar Properties, praised: “The courage and resolve of Peter to fight ALS and to champion the cause of ALS awareness is deeply inspiring.”

He added: “As an organisation, committed to its employees and the community, we believe it was important that we extend our whole-hearted support to Peter. This is a great example of how, by working together, we can make a positive difference to the world.”

While motor neuron disease only affects about two people in 100,000, it is inevitably fatal, with no cure presently available for treatment or to halt the condition.

Sufferers include the physicist Stephen Hawking, who has lived with the disease since 1963, and the American baseball player Lou Gehrig, after whom ALS is commonly named.

More recently, the ice bucket challenge swept the world, raising nearly US$750 million for ALS charities, with participants emptying a bucket of ice cold water over their heads.

Emaar employees plan to continue their fund-raising activities over the summer, with Oliver Harnisch, the Hospitality Group’s CEO planning to revive the challenge and encourage people to make an SMS donation to Al Jalila Foundation.