SHARJAH: 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), yesterday 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 on Friday and will finish at the same time today. 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.
A MESSAGE OF HOPE
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 (Dhs18.3 billion) in support of cancer patients worldwide.
Addressing the relayers, their supporters and all those involved at the start of the walkathon, Sheikha Jawaher thanked everyone for their time and effort in participating in this 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 Sheikha Jawaher.
“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 Laboratory, 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 Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammad 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. BjörnKjerfve, 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, theuniversity 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.”