Catalonia's 'marathon' drive to raise cash for medical research
December sees La Marató telethon drum up millions for projects on a range of illnesses, from AIDS and Alzheimer's to cancer and diabetes
Christmas is all about giving, and in Catalonia perhaps that spirit is best exemplified by La Marató telethon, which every year raises millions of euros for a different medical cause.
Since the first Marató in 1992, the telethon - the first of its kind in Spain - has raised hundreds of millions for research into illnesses such as leukemia, diabetes, and AIDS.
The record 15 million euros raised in the 2018 edition, for example, went towards funding some 43 cancer projects around the country, involving 96 research teams.
In fact, since the Marató telethon first began, it has so far provided funding for over 800 different medical research projects, involving more than 8,000 researchers.
15 hours of live programming
Yet, the Marató is also about entertainment, and in return for donations from its viewers, it offers around 15 hours of live programming on Catalonia's public TV channel, TV3.
A key event on TV3's annual schedule, the telethon attracts TV audiences of hundreds of thousands and is hosted by some of Catalonia's most popular media celebrities.
In 2018, for example, journalist Gemma Nierga and musician Ramon Gener presented the telethon devoted to cancer research, which drew an audience of 336,000 viewers.
For the 2019 edition, actor and presenter Quim Masferrer will lead proceedings, aiming to beat previous donation and viewership figures to raise money for rare diseases.
La Marató Foundation set up in 1996
All in all, La Marató has become something of an institution in Catalonia, and in 1996 La Marató Foundation was set up to manage donations and promote medical research.
Yet the foundation's fundraising activities go beyond the live telethon itself and include related activities and initiatives, such as a popular music album released every year and selling hundreds of thousands of copies.
In 2019, 'El Disc de la Marató' is celebrating its 15th anniversary, and as every year, brings together dozens of songs performed by a wide variety of top musical artists, both local and international, with all of them singing in Catalan.
This year's disc, which costs 10 euros, includes such big names as Noa, Alan Parsons, Vanesa Martín, Manuel Carrasco, Doctor Prats, Buhos, and Els Catarres.
Complementary fundraising activities
La Marató is also a call for organizations, associations, businesses, and towns all over Catalonia to launch their own activities to complement the main fundraising drive.
Concerts, sports events, workshops, prize draws, fairs, fun runs and walks, and film screenings are some of the more than 3,500 activities that accompany La Marató.
And to cope with the huge public interest all this produces, some 3,400 people volunteer each year to man the phones and take donations during the 15 hours the telethon lasts.
The 2019 edition of La Marató takes place on Sunday, December 15, but there's no need to wait until then, as the foundation is already accepting donations on its website.