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Edmonton Gorilla Run looks to raise awareness, funds

If you were to see a large group of people running around the city dressed in gorilla suits this Saturday, you need not be alarmed, it’s just the sixth annual Edmonton Gorilla Run bringing its own brand of wackiness to the act of fundraising.

The even, which is held yearly by the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Society, is designed to raise both awareness and funds to help with the plight of the critically endangered mountain gorilla.

Event coordinator Raemonde Bezenar described it thusly.

“It’s definitely one of Edmonton’s craziest events,” Benezar said. “It’s about people helping people, and helping to save a critically endangered species all at the same time.”

While this may seem like an obscure cause to the casual observer, those affiliated with the run assert that it is very worthwhile.

“Gorillas share 98.25 per cent of our DNA, they’re one of our closest cousins,” Benezar said. “Why would you not want to save something that is almost human?”

The cause is not just about the gorillas either, it also benefits the local populations that surround their habitats.

“By saving the gorilla, you’re helping the local people in the region,” Benezar said. “(You’re also) saving an important habitat with a lot of biodiversity.”

The event itself is certainly unique, as most other charity runs don’t involve running in a plastic gorilla suit.

“Where else can you put yourself in a gorilla suit and do a five kilometre event?” Benezar said. “It’s about monkeying around, it’s about having fun, and it’s about making the connection and trying to help us save a species all at the same time.”

That connection with people is something else that sets the run apart, as the running portion is far from the only facet of the event.

After the event takes place, there will be a free barbeque paid for by a participant’s entry fee, along with live music and prizes for best costume. All in all, this event is about more than just running around in a gorilla suit.

The gorilla run also works with the Stollery Children’s Hospital in a campaign called “Like Me, Like You,” which provides plush gorillas for Stollery patients. Participants are encouraged to purchase a plush gorilla and drop it off at the hospital during the run (the route takes the runners right by it). All proceeds from plush gorilla purchases, and the event in general go towards scholarships in veterinary medicine for people in the regions near the mountain gorilla habitat.

“If you ever get a chance to see a gorilla in its natural habitat, not in a zoo… you will be forever changed,” Benezar said.

The sixth annual Edmonton Gorilla run takes place on Sept. 12, starting at Corbett field at the U of A. Those who are unable to make the event, but still wish to help the cause can make a donation at the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Society of Canada’s website.

The best part about the whole thing: you get to keep the gorilla suit.

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