Former Olympic gold medalist Jamie Salé is on board as spokesperson for the Albertans helping Albertas Virtual 5k.
Participants have until May 31 to hit the trails, or the treadmill, for Alberta fundraiser
The Hinton Community Cancer Clinic is one of more than a dozen locations across the province set to benefit from a 5 km virtual run fundraiser.
The event, called the Albertans Helping Albertans Virtual 5k and organized by the Alberta Cancer Foundation, offers locals the opportunity to complete a five kilometre run – either via trail, track or on their own home treadmill through the month of May.
“You can run anytime this month, and anywhere you like. We know this is a time when people are looking for something to do, a reason to get out and run, and supporting this cause might do exactly that,” said Melanie Dekker, director of community relations for the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
Participants can choose where their fundraising is directed, so locals can raise funds for the Hinton Community Cancer Centre, which saw an estimated 100 patients last year for a combined 1,000 visits. Dekker said that 53 Albertans are diagnosed with cancer each day and that an estimated 20,000 Albertans will be diagnosed this year.
Money raised will help to enhance patient needs and experiences with items such as comfortable treatment chairs, warming blankets and upgraded waiting rooms.
“During this time of the pandemic staff at the centres are also hearing from Albertans who are facing emergency financial needs, for items such as paying for gas to treatments, buying groceries, and paying essential bills. Funds raised will help support Albertans to ensure they do not need to decide between treatment and day to day expenses,” said Dekker.
She added that the event is a fun and safe way to practice social distancing while supporting fellow Albertans facing cancer. It is open to everyone, whether they are an avid runner whose previous events have been postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, a beginner debuting your running career, or an Albertan wanting to walk to make a positive difference in your community.
The virtual format was something in development prior to COVID-19 as the Foundation was looking for opportunities to use technology for some broader initiatives.
“We are a provincial organization that has an impact across Alberta, so we were already exploring the idea of a virtual run,” Dekker said, adding that the timing was right.
Fundraising started May 1 and runs through to May 31. Registration is open and free for individuals under 18 years old, and $20 for all other participants. The first 300 people who register and complete their run or walk will receive a medal, and the first 300 people to raise $500 by April 30 will receive a commemorative race T-shirt.
“People have gotten creative with the fundraising beyond the initial five kilometers. Some have run five kilometres every day and collected pledges for each day they do that, or for every kilometre beyond the original five,” said Dekker.
There will also be fun prizing such as fastest times, youngest runner and oldest runner. If participants would like to be considered for fastest time they can be submitted via a photo until May 31. The photos can be a picture of your smart watch (use any app which records distance and time) or a photo of your treadmill at home. Times can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dekker said that, because it’s a first-year virtual event, the biggest learning curve is about getting the message out there. The Foundation has former Olympic medalist, figure skater Jamie Salé.
“We were really lucky to have her come on board. She’s a great advocate,” said Dekker.
Salé says in a video on the event website that her family has suffered several losses because of cancer.
“So I personally want to do my part to help and I know you do too,” she said.
“What a great concept while we are social distancing, right? We can get some exercise while we help support Albertans with cancer.”
Those looking to learn more or register for the event can visit albertacancer.ca/virtual5k/.