Supporting her mother when she had cancer made jeweller Suman Bakshi even busier, but at times she was forced to slow down.
During one such moment, the Lux Jewels owner received a call from the Rare Disease Foundation she couldn’t forget.
“There’s one in  people in Canada with a rare disease, so it’s not that rare when you think about one in … Fifty per cent of whom are children, and a quarter of those children don’t see their tenth birthday,” Bakshi said.
Her mother, Rani, coped with a rare form of cancer and was fortunate to receive a trial drug that extended her life. Bakshi recognized lesser known diseases don’t receive the same level of attention, which prompted her to organize the inaugural Diamond Race last year.
This year’s Diamond Race in support of the Rare Disease Foundation runs Saturday, May 26. Registration ends May 18. The race is open to teams of two in committed relationships, including same-sex, common-law, engaged and married couples. Contenders raise money and compete in an Amazing Race-style contest for their chance to win a one-carat, cushion-cut diamond that’s valued at $10,000. “Events out there right now are mainly for individuals,” Bakshi said.
“Everything you see when it comes to charity events is asking you to do something for them. You’re not winning anything, buy a ticket for this lottery, raise money for this run,” she added. “Nobody’s saying hey, you help us we’re going to give you this.”
Last year’s 23 teams raised $26,000. The money partly funded three micro grants that Bakshi said helped diagnose three rare diseases. “A little does go a long way,” she said.
Teams raise money in a set period before the event. They compete in a series of mental and physical challenges on race day. Teams with the five fastest times qualify to win the diamond. A calculation that considers finishing time and money raised determines the winner.
Jennie and Nick Saranchuck from Maple Ridge won the diamond last year. The athletic couple had always dreamed of competing on the Amazing Race television show. The Saranchucks weren’t the top fundraisers but raised more than $1,200 in three days. “It definitely kicked off a little fire to do more challenging things this year,” Jennie said.
Contest rules require the winners to have a ring designed by Lux Jewels. Bakshi replicated the engagement ring Nick gave Jennie when they were 24. The new ring incorporates her original diamond and another they bought from Bakshi. It cost them $2,000. “It was just appraised [at] just over $16,000,” Jennie said. “So well worth the money.”
Rare diseases affect fewer than one in 2,000 people. More than 7,000 rare diseases affect nearly three million Canadians. Parents, clinicians, researchers and volunteers who want to improve the lives of children and families affected by rare diseases make up the foundation. The non-profit provides small grants to patient-focused research projects on understudied diseases and runs a parents’ group.
For more information, see diamondrace.ca or rarediseasefoundation.org.