Rapid relief: Longyearbyen off to another fast start in annual telethon; this year’s funds to benefit homeless, addicts, others struggling in Norway

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The race to help people who are a step behind got off to its usual fast start in Longyearbyen, with 36,000 kroner raised during a relay race Saturday that set a new speed record and kicked off a month of local fundraising activities leading up to the annual NRK telethon.

Sixteen teams entered the race and, while the five members of won with a record time of 11 minutes and 25 seconds, for many it was a chance to flash more color than speed. Members of the Basecamp Spitsbergen team included a dog sled guide who ran harnessed to three dogs and another guide with glacier hiking gear, while a team of five Longyearbyen School teachers wore animal costumes ranging from a bear to a unicorn.

“I think we raised a little bit more than last year,” said Anne Lise Klungseth Sandvik, who is in charge of organizing many of the local events.

The next event will be an open day at Longyearbyen Fire Station next Saturday that will offer rides in fire trucks and a lift, games, and other activities. Other events that take place annually include open days at the kindergarten and Longyearbyen School featuring sales of student-made food and crafts, a rummage sale at The University Centre in Svalbard, and an auction during the weekend of the telethon typically featuring more than a hundred items from local books to trips to a polar bear pelt (which last year sold for 80,000 kroner).

Svalbard has for many years raised the most per-person among communities in Norway, with the 1.1 million kroner raised last year equating to 503.31 kroner per resident, compared to second-ranked Utsira at 325.55 kroner and third-ranked Träna at 260.06 kroner.

The nationwide telethon is scheduled for Oct. 21. This year’s proceeds are being donated to The Church City Mission, a Norwegian non-profit organization that works with various agencies to provide assistance to people struggling with homelessness, addiction, unemployment, medical needs and other problems.

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