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Joy as 21st edition of Mater Heart Run is launched in Nairobi County

 Kenya Airports Authority team led by Corporate Communications Officer Elijah Miano (centre) present a dummy cheque to members of the governing council of Mater Hospital at Ulinzi Sport Complex. [Silas Otieno, Standard]

The 21st edition of the Mater Heart Run was launched in Nairobi on Friday.

The race, to be held across ten Kenyan counties on June 3, aims to raise funds to support children with cardiac complications.

Organisers are targeting 100,000 participants in the run this season.

They are also aiming to raise over Sh119 million which will cater for treatment of related heart diseases among children.

"So far we have done 4893 surgeries through the race proceeds," Mater Misericordiae Hospital CEO Mary Ngui told Standard Sports.

"The surgeries have helped the affected children to live normal lives.They can play, run, go to school and do everyday activities like other normal children."

Some participants who will take part in the run gave accounts of how the complicated surgeries gave them a second chance in life.

"I'm glad that my heart is fully restored now, I can now play with my friends," Kelvin Mutuku, 10, from Mukuru slums in Nairobi highlighted.

Mutuku had four complex heart defects whose surgeries were done by special doctors from the Czech Republic last year.

Favour Ndaru, 8, also from the same estate said he is glad to be alive after the successful procedure.Ndaru was born with a hole in his heart which was successfully repaired in 2022.

Delight Njoki,18, narrated how she was unable to do even 100m dash before running out of breath.

"After the procedure, I can now do endurance races.I'm now running and completing the marathons, soon I'll start winning," Njoki said.

"I'm more than a conqueror, I'm feeling better, I'm feeling alive," she added.

Other participants who have undergone similar surgeries are Elisha Josiah (13 years) and Travis Rugendo (four) who underwent open heart surgeries in 2019 and 2022 respectively.

While giving the reason why the noble initiative was birthed 21 years ago, Ngui stated: "In 1995, we saw a great need to attend to children from poor backgrounds that were suffering from cardiac ailments that deterred them from carrying out the normal activities like other children.

"The cost of any intervention either through surgery or catheterisation was beyond their parents and guardians' means.

"To respond to this need, the Cardiac Program was started to improve the quality of life of these children. Initially, there was heavy reliance on external donor funding.

"However, in 2002, it was deemed necessary to look for ways of involving local people to continue with this worthwhile mission.

She continued: "The Annual Mater Heart Run was adopted that year as a very effective way to give people, mainly children, an opportunity to participate and improve the quality of their lives.

"To date, we have been able to assist 4, 893 children who have been given a new lease of life. "This has been possible because of the combined efforts of many.

"I wish to recognise the role played by external missions such as the Slovak, Czech Republic, SivaKumar among others, who generously carry out the annual surgeries and catheterisations on our needy children.

"We remain grateful to all the support we have received towards the realization of our Mission and Service."

The race can be supported through donations, sponsorship, or by promoting or buying its products.

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