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Last year, the UNICEF Croatia Milky Way Virtual Race was luanched, where 5,500+ participants, referred to as Milky Way “Stars,” participated and successfully raised more than HRK 700,000 to improve the conditions of maternity wards across the country. This year, they planned to host the same race, but their plans were devastated by the pandemic, and they needed a solution. UNICEF Croatia almost canceled their biggest fundraiser and community outreach event. However, they turned to atlasGO, and we provided a virtual race solution for them and a lifeline for the event to proceed!
UNICEF itself is an international organization that spans 192 countries. They focus all their humanitarian efforts on children. It was the first international organization to lay ground in Croatia. From there, UNICEF’s goal is to provide all children with the support they need. They do this by offering help with early childhood development and education, childhood disabilities, and premature infants, to name a few.
atlasGO and UNICEF Croatia teamed up. We built a customized format for the virtual platform that was both interactive and user-friendly. We kept the race private, which means participants would need to register to receive an unlock code from joining the race.
To register, individuals went on the UNICEF website to input their details. Participants received the unlock code online and also received a customized T-shirt sent by mail. Instead of having a planned route for The Milky Way Run, atlasGO’s virtual race platform allowed the run to occur all over the country. Participants could choose to walk, run, ride, or partake in any other distance-based activity to contribute to the overall goal. One of the primary messages of the race was that anyone and everyone could participate. Everyone was a star! It did not matter what you choose to do, where it takes place, or when. atlasGO’s virtual platform affords users the flexibility to plan out their activities.
Our participants have come together on thousands of paths this year to ensure children with disabilities have equal opportunities. Through this Milky Way Run virtual race, atlasGO and UNICEF Croatia collaborated for a worthy cause and had greater outreach to spread awareness. Emphasis was placed on togetherness, teamwork, and support to reach the common goal of fundraising. Speed was not what we focused on but rather the spirit of participation. It was a collective goal where children were the eventual winners of The Milky Way Run. This year’s medals were extra special because they were handmade by the Tomislav Špoljar Education Centre students. This institution is the exemplar of who The Milky Way Run supports. This center provides education for children with mild to severe intellectual and developmental disabilities and those with autism.
For the past three years, UNICEF Croatia opened the first human milk bank and provided equipment to all maternity wards in the country. This year, the event lasted a total of 16 days. More than 5,500 people wearing matching T-shirts, logging over 360,000 kilometers on the app, 5,632 sweaty selfies shared, and raised $186,000 in US dollars. Furthermore, all participants shared thousands of sweaty selfies and virtual high fives throughout the journey in the UNICEF Virtual Race.
Nothing invokes a sense of community and togetherness like thousands of people in uniform working towards the same goal. What was a sea of purple across Croatia was a symbol of hope and support for children with disabilities. UNICEF Croatia and we here at atlasGO have successfully “turned difficulties into opportunities” by taking The Milky Way Run virtual and expanding the reach.
Many new and old participants wonder if The UNICEF Croatia Milky Way Run will ever go back to a physical event. For now, UNICEF Croatia has become entirely virtual! We at atlasGO are delighted to be a part of their transition to take things online and provide them with the opportunity to reach more people and save more money.
Written by Jess Lin.
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