x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Terry Fox Run attracts 18,000 including presidential grandson

Eighteen-thousand people, among them a grandson of Sheikh Khalifa, raised money for cancer research at Abu Dhabi's annual Terry Fox Run.

Families participate in the annual Terry Fox Run in aid of cancer research in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
Families participate in the annual Terry Fox Run in aid of cancer research in Abu Dhabi yesterday.

ABU DHABI // Eighteen-thousand people, among them a grandson of Sheikh Khalifa, raised money for cancer research yesterday morning at the capital's annual Terry Fox Run.

Before the starter's pistol sounded, Sheikh Khalifa bin Sultan, the UAE President's 13-year-old grandson, and the Canadian ambassador, Kenneth Lewis, presented a Dh446,000 donation to Professor Frank Branicki, chairman of the UAE University faculty of medicine's research committee, as the first instalment in a Dh2.3m three-year grant.

And then young Sheikh Khalifa - wearing shorts, trainers, and a Terry Fox shirt - took part in the race.

"If Terry Fox can run across the country on one leg, I thought then why can't I do it on two?" he said. "It was hard, but people kept motivating each other."

Fox, a hero in Canada, embarked on a cross-country Marathon of Hope in 1980 though his right leg had been amputated and replaced with a prosthesis as a result of cancer.

But after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres he had to end his marathon, near the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario, because the cancer had recurred.

He would die nine months later at the age of 22. His legacy is carried on in Terry Fox runs around the world, of which the one in Abu Dhabi is among the largest outside Canada.

Yesterday morning in Abu Dhabi, hundreds of families swamped the Corniche for this year's 8.5km run.

"In [previous years], kids were coming, and parents were leaving," Nafisa Taha, chairwoman of the foundation in Abu Dhabi, said. "Now the whole family, and even the dogs, are here."

Yesterday's 18,000 participants were 3,000 more than turned out last year, organisers said.

As the throng waited for the race to start, volunteers and organisers kept the crowd busy with warm-up exercises, and a police and community band performed as families danced with their children.

"I am here with rollerblades this year so I can keep up with my kids, who will be running," Susie Sawaqed, a 44-year-old Australian mother of two, said.

"The run isn't tiring, the weather is beautiful, and we support the cause."

Alia Al Masoud, 23-year-old Emirati with an American mother, said she encouraged her friends at Zayed University to join.

"It's all for a good cause," she said.

Kelcey Wilson, a 12-year-old from South Africa, arrived with her dogs, aunt, and brother.

"My dogs love the walk," she said.

Umm Omnia, a Sudanese mother of four, was proud that all of her children participated.

While the atmosphere was upbeat throughout the day, some were reminded of the importance of the cause, the disease having touched their lives.

Teashia Vollan, a 26-year-old Canadian, took part with her family after her husband, Kyle Blackson, lost his mother to cancer last month.

To date, 42 research grants worth Dh10.2 million have been funded by the Terry Fox Foundation at UAE University's faculty of medicine. Professors who received grants also took part in the race.

"It is important for people to see them, to see where the money they are donating is going," Ms Taha said.

Yesterday's event raised Dh267,400.

osalem@thenational.ae