Participating in the inauguration lap with cancer survivors
- More than 2,000 participants attend to support cancer patients and raise donations
- Walkathon is first Relay for Life to take place in MENA region
- Event part of the global Relay for Life movement organised by the American Cancer Society since 1985
Sharjah, November 17, 2017: With the participation of more than 2,000 people, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Founder and Royal Patron of Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP), today (Friday), launched the region's first ever Relay for Life at the American University of Sharjah, a 24-hour walkathon aimed at generating publicity and funds for the fight against cancer.
Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi, who is the International Ambassador of the World Cancer Declaration for the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and International Ambassador for Childhood Cancer for UICC, participated in the first lap of the walkathon with cancer survivors, highlighting the importance of raising awareness of the disease and the necessity for screening for its early detection - the most important factor in survival and recovery.
Organised by Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP), the non-profit organisation that supports cancer patients and their families, the inaugural event for the MENA region commenced at 4pm today and will finish at the same time tomorrow. The overnight event has attracted the participation of more than 2,000 ‘relayers,' with individuals and institutions taking part including 52 schools, six universities, eight partners, 37 government and private institutions and 67 cancer survivors.
Relay for Life has its roots in the USA in 1985. Organised by colorectal surgeon Dr. Gordon Klatt, the first ever event raised $27,000 for his local cancer charity but since then has gone on to become the largest fundraising event for cancer in the world. Currently taking place in 29 countries, Relay for Life has to date raised more than $5 billion (AED18.3 billion) in support of cancer patients worldwide.
Addressing the relayers, their supporters and all those involved at the start of the walkathon, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi thanked everyone for their time and effort in participating what Her Highness said was an extremely important and noble cause.
“Today, we have come together to continue a story that began in 1999 when we launched Friends of Cancer Patients, which is dedicated to standing by cancer patients and lending them a helping hand. Hard work and dedication characterises our journey of 18 years, during which we have grown to become what we are today – an institution that has brought the world's largest cancer fundraiser, the Relay for Life walkathon, to the MENA region for the first time. Every step you will take today will add to the flame of hope, making it burn higher and stronger in the lives of those for whom we are all here today,” said Her Highness.
“We are here today to send a message of hope and our eagerness to uphold every chance of survival. Cancer statistics show that there are 1.4 million people are diagnosed with cancer worldwide each year and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths. However, figures also show that cancer is a preventable disease, with 30-40% of cancer deaths could be prevented, and a third of cancer cases are treatable through early diagnosis and treatment.,”
“This is why we stand her today to send a message to the entire world. We call on the international community, both individuals and organisations, to unify their efforts, so we can together open a door of hope for cancer sufferers and their families who live the disease or are affected by it every day.' Her Highness added
Addressing the participants about Sharjah International Labroutary, Her Highness said: “The Sharjah International Laboratory, which operates within the framework of the Crick Research Center in London, is a scientific lighthouse that illuminates the way for many cancer patients worldwide and gives them new hope with every new discovery, a fruit of their daily efforts at the lab.”
During her speech, Sawsan Jafar, Chairperson, Board of Directors, FoCP said: “We gather today in Sharjah to continue this journey initiated in 1985 by Dr. Gordon Klatt and for the first time in the Middle East and North Africa, in partnership with the American Cancer Society and under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al-Qasimi. From this beacon of education, which has nurtured generations, we ‘Relay for Life' to stand alongside every patient and to proclaim our unity. With you, we take steady strides through this great community effort sharing in with relayers from around the world the message of hope, faith and support,”
“Relay For Life is more than just a fundraiser, it's more than just an event. It is collective community. A community of survivors, a community of caregivers, a community of individuals and corporate citizens from all walks of life who are here today to say ‘enough!' Enough pain and suffering from cancer. We have come together to celebrate life. Celebrate the lives we have saved because of scientific and medical discovery. We have come together to remember. Remember those we have lost due to this horrible disease. We have come together to fight back against cancer. To empower ourselves with knowledge and a resolve to never stop fighting. Notice that there is no finish line on this track today. At least not yet. Because there is no finish line until we find a cure. We are not going to stop. And that is the symbolism for walking together for 24 hours,” said Bob Chapman, Managing Director, Global Relay For Life.
Dr. Björn Kjerfve, Chancellor of American University of Sharjah, welcomed the hosting of Relay RFL at his institution, saying: “We at American University of Sharjah are proud to be a part of this campaign and to affirm our full support by hosting this important event on our campus. Since its inception, the university has been committed to forging strong partnerships with organisations such as Friends of Cancer Patients, which play such an important role in helping provide solutions to the challenges facing society.”
Attending the launch ceremony alongside Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi were Hessa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development; HE Sawsan Jafar, Chairperson, Board of Directors, FoCP; HE Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, President of Zayed University; Bob Chapman, Managing Director, Global Relay For Life; Dr. Björn Kjerfve, Chancellor of American University of Sharjah; Reem Bin Karam, Director of NAMA; Jassim Mohammed Al Bloushi, Chairman, Sharjah Tatweer Forum and Member of the Board of Trustees of Rubu' Qarn Foundation; Nada Askar Al Naqbi, Director General of Sharjah Women Sports Foundation; Sheikha Jawaher bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah International Children's Film Festival and FoCP's Board of Directives; Khawla Al Haj, Head of the Friends for Diabetes Society; Amna Al Shanasi, Manager of Sharjah Ladies Club Branches and Iman Rashid Saif, Director of Health Education, Department of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs.
Also attending were Noha Mohammed Safar Vice President and Member of Board of Trustees of FoCP; Adalat Nakash, FoCP Honorary Member; Mira Taryam, FoCP Board Member; Hamid Jafar, Founder and Chairman of the Crescent Group of companies; Sheikh Saqr Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Sports Council; Varouj Nerguizian, Executive Director and General Manager of Bank of Sharjah and representatives from the Belgian council and Philippine council.
The Relay for Life launch ceremony screened a documentary video of the overall preparations for the walkathon and another revealing the vision of the event, its history, its impact on the face of cancer and its support for patients and survivors. Now underway, the walkathon comprises a number of themes at set times, including a ‘make a new friend lap,' a ‘sing-along lap,' a ‘movement lap,' a ‘casual lap,' a ‘tutu lap,' a ‘glow lap,' a ‘superhero lap,' a ‘conga lap,' a ‘wake up lap,' a ‘three-legged lap,' a ‘kids' lap,' a ‘family lap,' a ‘silly hat lap,' a ‘make some noise lap,' a ‘selfie lap,' a ‘fancy dress lap,' a ‘crazy hair lap' and - finally at 3pm today - a ‘fight back lap.'
Over 40 entertainment activities are taking place around the clock during Relay for Life, including live band and DJ performances, comedy acts, poetry readings and storytelling sessions. There is American football, golf, bubble soccer and jousting, while keeping the little ones entertained are bouncy castles, games, arts and crafts sessions, face-painting, movies and a soft play area. Relaxing moments for the adults include spinning classes, Pilates, doodling and yoga, while the more energetic can work up a sweat at the boot camp and make the most of the power stretching, zumba and core express exercises on offer.
Founded in 1999, FoCP has provided medical treatment and financial and moral support for more than 3,500 cancer patients and their families. Those wishing to join with the organisation and participate in the first ever Relay for Life in the MENA region should head to American University Sharjah today, where activities will be leading up to the grand finale at 4pm.