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Raising Sking Cancer Awareness

Raising Sking Cancer Awareness

One in 29 New Zealanders is diagnosed with skin cancer each year, one of the worst skin cancer rates in the world. Our high statistics have a lot to do with fair skin and exposure to amongst the fiercest sun rays in the world. One person doing his utmost to raise awareness of this terrible disease is Harry Townsend.

In 2004 Harry, an honorary trustee of the Melanoma Foundation, walked from end-to-end of the north island of New Zealand (~1200 km, 68 days) pushing a wheelbarrow to raise money for melanoma research in this country. On completion of his journey of awareness, Harry donated funds to the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, New Zealand’s premier vaccine and immunology research centre. A significant focus of the Malaghan Institute’s world-class research programmes is the development of immune-based therapies for the treatment of cancers such as melanoma.

When Harry Townsend's wife Myfanwy died on October 20th 1999 from the skin cancer malignant melanoma, he and their three sons set up the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund, a registered charity, to find a cure, promote awareness and enable early diagnosis of melanoma, which he refers to as the 'Disease of the 21st Century'. "Melanoma affects 1 in 50 people in Britain, with a very high death rate. Worse still, the incidence is doubling every ten years”, said Harry. “In New Zealand your incidence is even more extreme."

Not one to grow old gracefully, in his 72nd year, Harry is about to embark on his next incredible venture - to trek the Grand Canyon. The sole purpose of this global initiative is to raise over a million pounds (~$NZ2.6 million) for melanoma research, his toughest assignment yet. The challenge is a record breaking sponsored trek from rim-to-rim of the Grand Canyon on September 10th, 2008.

The 24 mile trek will be an incredible test of endurance and will begin on the North Rim at 9,000ft, descend to the Colorado River at 2,000ft, and climb the Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim at 8,000ft. 2.5 miles of the trek will be vertical and Harry will have to cope with temperatures at the river of around 48 C, getting hotter on the climb up the Devil's Switchback to the South Rim.


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