David Zhu does not run from a challenge. In fact, he is actually running for one.
The second-year Medical Sciences student recently organized 5-ing COVID-19, a fundraiser in support of the SickKids Foundation. For every $10 raised, Zhu and his team will run one kilometre up to 500 km. They just recently surpassed 250 kilometres ($2,596).
The 20-runner team is mainly made up of high school friends, including fellow Western students Yixuan Zhao, Adam Shedeed, Anushka Sarkar and Will Nitschke joining friends from Carleton, Waterloo, Queens, McMaster and Guelph universities.
“Not a day goes by that I’m not incredibly grateful for the fact we’ve stayed close, despite many going to different universities. No matter how far we are physically separated, we will always have each other’s backs.”
Only two weeks ago, Zhu had been planning for his “dream internship” at Harvard Medical School this summer. Then, the pandemic began. One week ago, he found out the internship had been cancelled.
“Many university students are familiar with this sentiment – spending countless long days and nights preparing for interviews, feeling on top of the world upon receiving their internships, and heartbroken when these internships are postponed or cancelled,” he said.
“Then, I thought, ‘I’ve got this skillset that Western and my former high school has given me – leadership, networking skills, and an amazing community of friends. Why not leverage this skillset and, rather than just focusing on myself, support others who could benefit?”
The fundraiser name was inspired by the American band Five for Fighting which kept popping up on Zhu’s Spotify playlist. It aligns with the goals of 500 km traveled, $5,000 raised and the five essential services the fundraiser will be supporting through SickKids.
“I’ve always been incredibly passionate about health care and running,” Zhu said.
As part of Western Science Student Council, he helped organize a Q&A session with Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO of SickKids, last fall. “I was inspired by the excitement and passion he had for his work,” Zhu said.
Zhu was admittedly disappointed when his Harvard internship fell through, but quickly realized there were more important things.
“Students can make a tremendous difference in this fight, even if from the comfort from your bedroom,” he said. “If we can inspire others to start their own initiatives, this will create a butterfly effect that will offer financial and emotional support to so many more people, and in the long run, the latter will be even more empowering.”