February 27, 2016 12:49:57 pm
Seven-year-old Adarsh is preparing for his fourth chemotherapy session, his face covered with a green mask “to prevent him from catching any infection”, says his mother, Soni Walia.
Adarsh was diagnosed with Leukaemia, blood cancer, just seven months back. Now, while his friends back home in Patna spend their days playing, fighting and studying, Adarsh prepares for chemotherapy sessions in Delhi — fighting for life. “He doesn’t eat for four-five days after every session. He needs to have a lot of water after each therapy, and also develops mouth ulcers. That’s the most difficult time… he gets cranky, hardly talks,” says his teary-eyed mother.
But the 32-year-old young mother and her husband who runs a small mosquito net-making business in Patna now has support from 10 strangers; 10 affluent people who have embarked on a unique journey for Adarsh, and hundreds of other children like him. Sporting matching green jerseys, the group of businessmen, corporate honchos and doctors recently rode from Delhi to Mumbai in a 60-hour journey of over 1,400km to raise at least Rs 1.5 crore and “give back to the society in some way that has given us so much”.
The journey, during which the cyclists took turns in batches to ride, following a relay format, three to four riders a time covering 100km at a stretch, was flagged off from India Gate in the national capital at 9.30pm on February 18 and came to a halt at the Gateway of India in the financial capital at 11.30am on February 21.
The group, Wurlee 545 (called so because they meet at Worli, Mumbai, at 5.45am regularly to cycle) has already raised Rs 1.7 crore through crowd-funding and various other avenues; the crowd-funding for this event had begun in early February.
This is not the first time Wurlee 545 has taken up such an initiative. But unlike previous fund-raisers, this time the five-year-old group plans to auction the SCOTT Sports cycles they rode. “Each cycle costs Rs 2.5 lakh. These premium-range bicycles will be auctioned within 15 days in Mumbai and the proceeds will be added to the donation” says Jaymin Shah, country manager, Scott Sports, which co-sponsored the event.
Speaking on behalf of Wurlee 545, 47-year-old Prashant Mehta, Founding Partner of VC fund Lightbox, says, “The first time we cycled to raise money was in 2011, from Mumbai to Pune, when we asked a couple of friends to donate for the cause. Last August, we cycled from Manali to Leh (just for fun) and discovered we could ride so far. Then we asked ourselves, ‘Why not give back to the community that has given us so much?’ Most of us have seen our near and dear ones fight the battle against cancer and, unfortunately, some of us have seen them lose. Also, to be honest, it’s more about identifying a skill and putting it to good use if we have the means and resources.”
It was a great experience for the group as well. The journey was fantastic, says Wurlee 545 member Jaideep Khanna (50), CEO and Country Head of Barclays India. “Surprisingly, the truck drivers were very disciplined on our way. As expected, the journey was physically challenging, especially while crossing Gujarat in the afternoon with the sun beating down; and given that we were all sleep-deprived. But what kept us going were the messages we constantly received on Facebook and Twitter. People said they were inspired to contribute to the cause. And that’s exactly how we had expected it to pan out,” he says.
For this ride to Mumbai, Wurlee 545 will donate all proceeds to St Judes, a Mumbai-based NGO that provides “a home away from home to cancer patients up to the age of 15 and their families”. The organisation, with 18 centres in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Jaipur, does not contribute to medical treatment but “provides hygienic, protective, high quality holistic care for young cancer fighters” and makes sure that the children continue living their lives the way they were before cancer treatment. This at least takes care of the child’s and his/her parents’ stay and care — an expense that can be a huge burden for those coming from less affluent backgrounds.
“These children are from extremely humble backgrounds (like that of Adarsh and his family’s) who can’t afford to stay in hotels or lodges in cities. And something as minor as a common cold can be fatal for them. It’s important for any cancer patient to live in hygienic surroundings. I have seen children losing their battles because they lived on streets or in unhygienic rooms,” says Manisha Parthasarathy, vice-chairman, St Judes.
At any given point St Judes supports around 250 children. “They all live like a huge family where all parents share the same sentiments and children become friends. Often, they get emotional while leaving,” Parthasarathy adds.
As for Adarsh, his mother plans to return to Patna after the fourth chemotherapy session so that her son can rejoin school. “That’s something very dear to him. He has already asked his father to get all his school books here from Patna,” says Soni.
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