Rock star’s epic charity run fans take FB update profiles to show support
DON’T BE surprised to find this week that Facebook has been overtaken by a stampede of people changing their profile photos to “selfies” with rock star Artiwara “Toon” Kongmalai, whose epic run across the country has captured the nation’s imagination.
Artiwara, the famous frontman for the rock band Bodyslam, is in the midst of a 2,191-kilometre run from the southernmost point in Thailand to the northernmost province of Chiang Rai to raise funds for 11 cash-strapped hospitals. The social media trend has gained momentum recently as fans of the rock star have turned out to cheer his progress, although they have been asked not to disturb the group of runners, which could disrupt the marathon and even cause injury that would delay the campaign’s progress.
Artiwara started his run in Yala province’s Betong district on November 1, with plans to finish within 55 days by December 25 in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district bordering Myanmar. During the first days of the run, people lined the roads to donate money and take selfies with Artiwara, with the rock star smilingly obliging to pose with his fans. But the flurry of photos has tapered off in recent days after Artiwara’s supporters were asked to only approach him at designated rest stops out of concern that his fitness condition could be affected by having to stop so many times. The schedule already experienced a hiccup in the initial days after the star suffered back pains.
In a creative solution, Facebook users have put together a photo template allowing others to download their photos into a frame to make it appear like they had taken a selfie with the singer. The Facebook fad has since taken off as fans are uploading the photo compositions as their profile pictures. The template has covered so much ground that Thais living overseas in countries such as Australia, the United States, and European countries have joined the trend. Yesterday, the seventh day of his run, donations reportedly had topped Bt100 million as Artiwara traversed the southern province of Songkhla, with plans to run 11.2 kilometers from a PTT petrol station to Viharn Phraputtamongkonbophit Temple.
Songkhla residents thronged along the route, clapping their hands and giving donations to the singer’s team. And given the undiminished enthusiasm to take actual selfies with the singer, fans were queuing at rest points where Artiwara good-naturedly smiled for a different type of marathon posing for photos. This is the second charity run by the signer, who last December raised Bt63 million during a 10-day campaign for Bangsaphan Hospital in Prachuab Khiri Khan province, following damage to the facility after heavy flooding. This year’s event has been praised by many fans, adding to the singer’s already considerable popularity, although some have pointed out that the country’s endemic under-funding of hospitals would not be remedied by a single individual’s efforts. Other high-profile figures have got on board the so-called Toon train. Veteran politician Sudarat Keyuraphan posted on Facebook a photo showing her with Artiwara and she encouraged people to donate to the campaign. Actors and actresses have also posted on social networking platforms praising the singer’s effort and urging people to donate. Source: Nation