RUN FOR THEIR LIVES marks 5-year milestone

Saturday, 22 November 2014 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By David Stephens The motley group of youngsters who embarked upon reviving the then defunct Rotaract Club of Colombo Uptown (RCCU) back in 2010 did not hold any significant resources at their disposal, least of all money. Nevertheless, they were rich in ideals, enterprise and resilience and ultimately these spurred them toward success and became the defining qualities of their most well-known charitable initiative: Run For Their Lives. Each of the four times the annual 5 km run – which generates funds for the Maharagama Cancer Hospital – has been staged participation, public interest and donations have risen exponentially. This trend has bestowed the run with immense popularity and its own identity, so much so that it is now one of the most anticipated events on the local calendar. Milestone celebration As RFTL approaches its fifth instalment on 13 December, RCCU has included a number of changes to appropriately celebrate this milestone, such as shifting the run from its usual start-off time in the morning to 4:30 p.m. “Things felt sentimental after five years of organising the race, so we went back in our emails to discover what it was like in 2010 at the time when we were organising the race for the first time, to rediscover how we felt back then,” said RCCU Past President and former RFTL project chair Thilina De Silva, who was one of the founding members of RCCU’s current incarnation. Thilina revealed that the run came about after Hassan Ismail, who was tasked with handling the club’s finances, happened upon the practice of charity runs before delivering a proposal outlining its feasibility for a local audience.     Interest and donations Thilina admits to being initially sceptical about the idea’s effectiveness before eventually being blown away by the outpouring of interest and donations. “Back then our platinum sponsor came forward with only Rs. 175,000. Right now our platinum sponsor is giving us Rs. 900,000. Initially, we used the Royal Institute graduate school to promote it because so many of our members were studying there, and from there things really spread; they started telling their friends who told even more of their friends. Even today it is still one of the main sources through which we promote the event,” Thilina explains. He adds that they made it a point while organising the first run not to skimp on hard work and this was reflected by the fact that despite lacking any experience piecing together an event of RFTL’s nature or magnitude, RCCU generated a profit of Rs. 400,000. Last year was no different. In fact due to RFTL’s rapid growth it demanded an even greater measure of effort and dedication from each person within the organising committee. Thilina says that one of these members was so exhausted after two straight days without sleep that driving home from the event he crashed his vehicle after falling asleep at the wheel.   The bigger picture All of those involved with RFTL though are more than willing to put in the work, something the members of RCCU attribute to a keen understanding of the bigger picture. “After the second year we thought about how the event would be in 50 years’ time. That’s when we actually realised that this could go on for 50 years. So over time we have built traditions and have not broken them. Going into the fifth year we still respect those principles and the ways those principles were formed,” Thilina says. If the numbers are anything to go by, clearly these organisational principles are paying dividends. To date, the RCCU states that it has donated Rs. 6 million worth of equipment to the hospital, equipment which it is personally purchases and delivers. It also cultivates extensive interest on social media through stats such as Facebook likes. The RCCU adjusts to this spiralling growth by annually pushing forward its targets for the event. This year they expect well over 3,000 people to be at the starting line and revenue is estimated to rest somewhere near Rs. 3.8 million. However, Thilina states that more often than not even these lofty benchmarks are easily surmounted. Based on past evidence, this is more than likely to be the case at the franchise’s fifth edition. To find out more information about RFTL visit