Toon reaches Suphan Buri, donations top B628m

Runner Artiwara “Toon" Kongmalai is warmly greeted in Ayutthaya on the 37th day of his marathon charity fundraiser. Donations topped 614 million baht shortly after midday Thursday. (Photo by Sunthorn Pongpao)

Singer-turns-runner Toon Bodyslam reached Suphan Buri on Thursday, hours after a big crowd of well-wishers and three caparisoned elephants greeted the rock star in Ayutthaya.

On Day 29 of his 2,191km marathon, Toon and his team arrived in Muang district in Suphan Buri on Thursday night, with people flocking to a PTT petrol station to welcome their hero home.

"After 29 days, I was finally home," he told the crowd. "Thank you all for people of Suphan Buri."

"I didn't ride from Betong. I came here on my run."

Artiwara "Toon" Kongmalai was born in Suphan Buri and studied in Bangkok until he got a bachelor's degree n laws with first-class honours from Chulalongkorn University.

Toon decided to leave Bang Sai district in Ayutthaya before schedule so that he and his team could complete a 50km run not so late into the night.

He stressed his intention of seeing all people contribute to the campaign.

"I don't want a small number of people donating huge sums. I'd rather a large number of people giving a little money so that all would be part of the project," he said.

Toon arrived in Bang Sai district of Ayutthaya in the morning.

At the entrance of the Esso petrol station at kilometre maker 41 on Highway 340, the first rest area of his charity run in this district. the singer and other runners were directed to pass under the belly of the elephants, to bring them good luck.

The popular abbot of Wat Pom Raman, Phra Khru Kasem Chanthawimol, gave Toon and his team a blessing. They were also presented with a cheque for about 2.2 million baht - donations from local residents to his charity fund.

Toon thanked everyone for the warm welcome, and for the experience of walking underneath an elephant for the first time in his life. He told the cheering crowd he was no hero. The true heroes were all the doctors and nurses at hospitals who worked so hard to save people's lives.

After a rest, he was due to resume his run at 3pm, heading for Suphan Buri, his home province.

But after learning of the large number of Suphan Buri people lining the route there from Bang Pla Ma district to Muang district to welcome him, the singer hit the road again at 11.30am.

He aims to raise 700 million baht for needed equipment at 11 regional public hospitals, running from the southernmost district of Betong in Yala province to the northernmost district of Mae Sai in Chiang Rai province.

Chaiwat Worachetwarawat, 62, a special lecturer at Rajabhat Ayutthaya University and the first person to run from Betong to Mae Sai, in 1986, joined Toon in the charity run, saying he was proud to run beside him.

According to the charity-run's Kao Khon Lakao (everyone takes a step) website, contributions had surpassed 628 million baht as of 08.00pm on Thursday.

Toon receives a cheque for 2.2 million baht in donations from representatives of Ayutthaya residents. (Photo by Sunthorn Pongpao)

Rock star Toon receives blessing from a popular temple abbot. (Photo by Sunthorn Pongpao)


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