Ultramarathon runner Samantha Gash leading Relief Run for India

By Our Reporter
Samantha Gash in orange // Photo: Bruce Viaene

Samantha Gash’s love affair with India is an open secret. In her decade-long relationship, she has visited the country six times and in 2016, she embarked on a 76-day run starting from the desert state of Rajasthan and culminating it in the remote north-eastern state of Meghalaya.

During her three-month journey, she visited some of the country’s most poverty-stricken corners, forging lasting relationships with the families and children she met.

That same year Samantha was also selected as a delegate for the 2016 Australia India Youth Dialogue which brought together young Australian and Indian leaders in a forum held in India to discuss various issues significant to the Australia-India relationship.

For this professional endurance athlete, who is also a World Vision Goodwill Ambassador and a social entrepreneur, among the many credentials after her name, COVID-19 and its devastating impact on India is something that warrants immediate help.

Towards this end, Samantha is leading a Global Relief Run to raise lifesaving funds for the people of India. The Run will be held over the weekend of June 11,12 and 13 and will be a virtual run allowing participants all over the world to run (or walk) 5km, 10km or half a marathon at a location and time that suits them. Groups across schools, corporates and communities are encouraged to create an event and support the cause.

Running in Ballia // Photo: Nic Davidson

All funds raised will go towards the World Vision’s COVID-19 India crisis appeal, which is responding to lifesaving needs for equipment and supplies including beds, oxygen concentrators, food vouchers and tents for temporary COVID-19 care centres.

Samantha, who made history by becoming the first woman and the youngest person in 2010 to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam races in a calendar year, former Survivor contestant, is the co-creator of Relief Run, which last year raised more than $1 million in support of Australian bushfire relief efforts.

Samantha hopes to raise at least a quarter of a million dollars through the Global Relief Run.

With India reporting a record number of daily deaths this week, and authorities fearing the worst is still to come, the fundraiser cannot come soon enough, said Samantha.

“The scale of the tragedy in India is heartbreaking, but I feel confident the generosity of runners from around the world can make a difference,” she said

“I think every one of us has some connection to India and is devastated by the ever-increasing scale of loss. It is heart-wrenching to see the endless suffering of individuals and vulnerable communities that are now at even greater risk,” Samantha said.

“When Australia was devastated by bushfires in 2020, the global community came to our aid. Now it’s time for us to pay it forward.”

World Vision is working in some of India’s worst-hit areas and has significantly boosted its response due to urgent and escalating lifesaving needs.

The COVID-19 death toll in India is now more than 330,000, yet experts fear the official number is a gross underestimate.

With Australians supporting more than 23,000 children in India and their communities through sponsorship programs, World Vision Australian Chief Executive Officer, Daniel Wordsworth, said he had faith in the kindness of Aussies, and encouraged them to sign up for this year’s Relief Run.

“India and its people hold a special place in the hearts of Australians, and Samantha’s initiative gives us all the opportunity to stand in solidarity with them,” he said.

“We are very grateful for Samantha’s support, and her willingness to use her platform again and again to help others.

Relief Run is partnering with life, health and wellbeing insurer AIAAustralia to help stage the fundraiser in cities and towns across the nation. After seeing the profound impact Samantha made with the bushfire Relief Run last year, AIAAustralia and New Zealand Chief Executive and Managing Director, Damien Mu, said he was proud to be involved in this effort for India.

“When Samantha brought the idea of the Relief Run to us, there was no question in my mind that AIA should be involved—this was simply about doing the right thing,” he said.

“We have colleagues, friends and family directly impacted by the crisis in India, and I believe it is our responsibility to make a difference however we can.”

AIA Australia has the support of all of their AIA Vitality ambassadors across Australia and New Zealand to spread the event and take part in runs over the June 11-13 weekend. Including Bec Judd, Sylvia Jeffreys, Laura Henshaw, Steve Hooker, Anabelle Smith, Alisa Camplin and Marika Day, and New Zealand AIA Vitality ambassadors Dame Valerie Adams and Ian Jones.

AIA’s Global Ambassador, David Beckham, will also be encouraging people across Asia to participate.

“The situation across India has been heart-breaking to see. Whatever we can do to help in any way is really important and I’m proud to support Samantha and this great initiative to raise vital funds and awareness for the relief efforts across India,” he said.

“Australia is not going to be over with the pandemic until the rest of the world is. I implore people to remember that we are global citizens and if you are able to contribute, it is an amazing thing to be able to do,” sums up Samantha, adding, “We are all deeply connected to India whether we realise it or not from our business to our personal lives.  I would love it if you can sign up for the relief run and support those who are going through a really bad time right now.”

To find out how you can participate go to www.reliefrun.com.au or to donate to World Vision’s COVID-19 India crisis appeal go to www.worldvision.com.au/end-corona-for-India.

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