When Peter Van Wyk, Senior Director of Hospitality Development at Emaar was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, he was determined to find a way to raise money for research and heighten awareness of the disease in the UAE.

Emaar Properties stepped up support to Peter’s cause by conducting an organisation-wide #CHALLENGEALSDXB campaign that gained positive response with employees buying and wearing the specially created badges for the ALS campaign, and the funds raised going to the Al Jalila Foundation.

To date over AED 20,000 has been raised through the SMS donation line largely through the Emaar network. Emaar employees were also encouraged to change their WhatsApp and social media profile pictures to the #CHALLENGEALSDXB logo.

Coinciding with the Holy Month of Ramadan, Emaar Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of Emaar Properties, also organised a charity iftar and art auction to further support the cause. Funds raised from the event, that witnessed the auction of artworks by eL Seed, Mattar Bin Lahej, Beth Cullen Kerridge, Anna Masters, Petr Weigl, Ben Barrell, Fadi Sarieddine, and Khalid Shafar together with a number of local artists, were contributed to Al Jalila Foundation for much-needed research into ALS and to support ALS patients in the UAE. The charity event took place at Armani Hotel Dubai, with over 300 people attending.

The auction raised a total of US$87,725 (over AED 322,000). Emaar doubled the funds to a total of US$175,450 (over AED 644,000). All proceeds from ticket sales for the event will also be contributed to Al Jalila Foundation.

Mohamed Alabbar, Chairman of Emaar Properties, said: “The courage and resolve of Peter to fight ALS and to champion the cause of ALS awareness is deeply inspiring. As an organisation, committed to its employees and the community, we believe it was important that we extend our whole-hearted support to Peter. I thank all our employees for their overwhelming participation in the #CHALLENGEALSDXB campaign. This is a great example of how, by working together, we can make a positive difference to the world.”

Peter Wan Wyk said: “It is heartwarming to see the support extended by my Emaar family and their commitment to raise awareness for ALS. Being diagnosed with ALS was difficult but I decided that it was important for the world, especially the region here, to know more about the condition so that it helps people be vigilant about the symptoms. The campaign by my colleagues at Emaar and the support extended by Al Jalila Foundation are invaluable. Together, with such initiatives, we can raise awareness for ALS and support people with the condition to manage it better.”

Dr. Abdul Kareem Sultan Al Olama, Chief Executive Officer of Al Jalila Foundation, said: “Emaar’s initiative is truly noble, as it not only helps support people with ALS but also enables more medical research into the condition. At Al Jalila Foundation, we are committed to making a positive difference to the lives of people, and value such initiatives that are key to rallying public awareness for conditions such as ALS.”

Dr. Abu Bakr Al Madani, Head of Neurology at Rashid Hospital and Vice President of Emirates Neurology Society who is treating Van Wyk, said: “Peter has been extraordinary in his resolve not to bow down to the condition but to take up the task of raising awareness for ALS. I congratulate him for his determined fight against ALS, and also thank Emaar and Al Jalila Foundation for their invaluable support.”

A motor neuron disease, ALS is a rare condition that affects the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement which ends up in total paralysis and eventually death. The condition is progressive and there is no effective cure or treatment to halt or reverse the progression, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Awareness of the condition is critical, as medical research says, identifying early symptoms can help in preventing complications and living with the condition easier.

To continue raising awareness, Emaar Hospitality Group’s Chief Executive Officer, Olivier Harnisch will revive the ice bucket challenge and encourage people to make a donation to Al Jalila Foundation via SMS. Olivier has challenged the team at Rove Downtown and his former employer Carlson Rezidor in the UAE to take up the challenge. The campaign will continue throughout the summer.

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