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On the road again with ‘Toon’ for a cause

Jun 02. 2019
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By The Nation

A MERE couple of decades after making his debut on the music scene, Artiwara “Toon” Kongmalai is about to hit the road again – not with his band Bodyslam but with a full series of charity runs like the one that made him a national hero in 2017.

The rock star will kick off the series on June 15 in northeastern Nong Khai province with the aim of helping small hospitals acquire the equipment they need to provide better medical care and doubtless save more lives. 

The latest undertaking is riding on the huge success of his epic 2017 charity run “Kao”, which took him and other participants all the way from Thailand’s southernmost to northernmost points. 

By the conclusion of that strenuous, drama-filled effort, Kao had not only raised more than Bt1 billion for hospitals in need, but also catapulted Artiwara to the status of national hero. That run has even become the subject of a Netflix documentary film.

Artiwara’s Kao project raised more than Bt1.6 billion in total for hospitals between 2016 and 2018. 

On May 8 this year, the project officially evolved into the Kao Kon La Kao Foundation.

“More than the money we want to raise for a good cause, our ultimate goal is simple – to see more people come out for exercise and take better care of their health,” Artiwara said. 

He said good health was the best foundation for a high-quality life. 

His plan for the coming runs is to have celebrities take turns running 10 kilometres each on average until the planned distance is completed. 

Runs will be held in each of five regions – the Northeast, North, South, East and Central region. Each in turn is expected to help equip seven or eight small-scale hospitals in each region. 

On June 15 and 16, the run in the Northeast will cover 187 kilometres from Nong Khai to Khon Kaen. 

Celebrity participants confirmed for that outing include Naphat Siangsomboon, Patcharasri “Kalamare” Benjamas and Wuthithorn “Woody” Milintachinda.

While Artiwara’s efforts have drawn widespread admiration, critics have claimed the mission fails to address the reason why so many hospitals face budget shortfalls – inadequate government funding. 

Artiwara’s team has meanwhile firmly denied the accusation that a portion of the money donated to the effort has been used to pay for his overseas trips. 

“It’s sad that such comments emerge,” said Chaicharn Baimongkhon of the Kao Khon La Kao Project. “No one would ever dare think of taking donated money, let alone act on such a vicious idea”. 

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