Outreach in motion

Tonight I had the honour of attending a swim training session for the Can Too Foundation (http://www.cantoo.org.au/). Can Too is a Health Promotion Foundation that funds cancer research, which is admirable and amazing but to end the description there would be doing the program a disservice.

A lot of charity fundraising is done through bake sales, barbecues, and the sale of other foods which are not be the healthiest around. Can Too’s fundraising is instead focused on training people to prepare for a long distance run, swim, or ride. All the while, the participants collect donations in support of their major athletic events and cancer research. They tackle their goal of improving health not just through the funding of scientists and research, but by also encouraging participants while they train for major athletic feat.

The Can Too Foundation invites both beginner and experienced athletes to train for their events, which include full marathons and triathlons! They are trained by professional coaches who, as far as I know, donate their time and expertise to the cause. The participants give their all, training several times a week for several months, and proudly complete their races together. These athletes are motivated, inspired, and empowered to reach their personal fitness and fundraising goals. The donations then directly fund cancer researchers like my labmates, who are researching prostate, breast, and blood cancers. Although my research is in cartilage regeneration, some of the participants expressed interest in my research as well, and joked about wanting to be signed up for cartilage repair as soon as it becomes available. It’s always nice to get out of the lab and see the real, human side of what we are working toward.

My supervisor gave the Can Too organizers, coaches, and athletes an overview of the research we do, what’s already been discovered within the field, and an explanation of what we’re trying to achieve. Afterwards, we answered any questions the group had, including an interesting one about what drives us. As athletes in training for what is quite a large undertaking, they definitely know that drive is important, and wanted know what pulled us to research and what keeps us there for the long run. Our answers generally expressed that there is a global gap in our knowledge of how to keep people healthy, and we are motivated to keep researching because we want to benefit humanity. Many of us also mentioned an early interest in science, and thinking of scientific research as a series of fascinating puzzle to be solved.

My favourite moment of the night was when one of the participants told us it was nice to have faces to put to the vague terms “scientist” and “researcher”. She said hearing about the research firsthand and meeting us was really nice, because she could now think of us when training and know where some of the funds are being allocated. They seemed to really enjoy hearing why we care and why we show up every day to keep chipping away at the research puzzle, even when certain questions have been asked for decades without a definitive answer. We believe that the answers are out there, but it will take many more years and many more researchers to discover treatments and cures. Can Too’s values are “fun, fitness, friends, and fundraising”, and they stay true to their values. We were received warmly and later thanked for our time and our dedication to research.

I’ll finish off with a motivational message from their webpage that fits well with both long-term training and long-term research: “There is a stretch goal in all of us and with a desire we all CAN TOO do anything we set out to do. We just need to take that first step, join Can Too and anything is possible!!! We believe we CAN TOO!!”

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