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Winter sports raise money for digestive research

by Archives March 24, 2009

HAMILTON (CUP) – While fundraising is important, asking for donations or selling chocolate bars isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. But a group of profs from Hamilton’s McMaster University are putting a new spin on it.
The profs are traveling to Alberta to engage in some winter sports to raise money for research about digestive diseases.
The activities, taking place late last month, included driving a dog sled through Snowy Owl, snowshoeing through the forests of Spray Valley, summiting the Ha Ling Peak, and cross-country skiing over Canada’s continental divide.
Richard Hunt, the vice-president of the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation and a professor of medicine at McMaster, says fundraising for health research has an increased importance.
“I think we’re living in difficult financial times, so the problem was already there in many ways. Governments are not investing as much as they should in recent budgets,” Hunt said.
Hunt adds that stock market problems mean agencies are no longer making money on investments.
“One way that groups now raise money is to get people to do things and then they go out and get friends and family to sponsor them to do it,” he said.
This year, the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology and the Canadian Liver Association held their annual meetings Banff, Alta.
“It seemed an opportunity to have an event two days ahead of that meeting in which people can be challenged to several tasks of winter sports activities,” said Hunt.
The six McMaster faculty members participating in the winter sports are members of the Farncombe Digestive Health Research Institute, which was established six months ago. Hunt says their attendance is also a way to highlight the institutes’ establishment in addition to raising awareness of gastrointestinal research within the community of Hamilton.
“Almost a third of the Canadian population suffer in some way from digestive diseases. One of the difficulties here is its almost a public or social issue,” said Hunt.
“It’s an interesting social thing. [The] Heart and Stroke [Foundation] gets over a $100 million a year from public awareness . . . and that funding is going largely into managing diseases that are affecting people in the last 10 years of their life, possibly 20, whereas digestive diseases actually affect young people and they have a huge social impact.”
“For example, a 30-year-old with Crohn’s Disease may be married with young children and that social impact is huge,” he added.
Hunt believes gastrointestinal diseases elicit less attention because “symptoms aren’t particularly parlour symptoms.”
Gastrointestinal disorders range from life threatening to discomforting.
The fundraising initiative is expected to achieve approximately $330,000 to go to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation.

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