Thailand rock star Artiwara Kongmalai, aka “Toon Bodyslam”, has announced his new charity marathon run for 2022. The star was hailed by many as a hero for his previous runs to raise money for Thai hospitals and students.
The proceeds from the new charity run, the second one for school students, will go to 109 students who complete Grade 9 education, but do not have enough money to continue with their further education. The 109-kilometre trek is scheduled to last 59 days, from January 1 to February 28. It turns out this is not really a marathon but a “virtual run” for participants to accumulate running distance. Participants can run at home, on their own treadmills, or in public parks, and submit the recorded distance run via the Kaokonlakao Foundation website.
There has been a growing criticism on these kind of events by Toon Bodyslam, but his fans have rushed to his defence, applauding him for his noble self-sacrifice and for lending a helping hand where he can, stressing that every baht raised from the runs is going to needy children, with nothing taken from donations to pay for expenses. The Kaokonlakao Foundation has documented stories of on their web page about some of the up to 40,000 students who complete Grade 9 in Thailand every year, but lose their further education opportunities every year due to lack of funds.
The 42-year-old rock star has been widely praised for his previous charity marathons. In December 2016, he decided to run 400km from Bangkok to Prachuap Khiri Khan to raise funds for medical equipment needed by Bang Saphan Hospital. The run attracted about 85 million THB (about 2.5 millions USD) in donations. Then, in late 2017 he set off on an epic trek of 2,215 kilometres from Betong district in the southernmost province of Yala, to Mae Sai district in the northern province of Chiang Rai over 55 gruelling days. A total of 1.2 billion THB (about 36 millions USD) in donations were received and all proceeds went to 11 hospitals which lacked medical equipment, transforming Toon Bodyslam into a national hero.
He staged more runs for hospitals, before switching his charity efforts to helping students from poor backgrounds. His first virtual run took place back in 2020, when they received 27 million THB (about 800,000 USD) in donations to help 109 students who wished to continue their further education. The 109 students were selected based on the diligence of their studies and are all from very poor families whose parents want their children to continue studying.
Born in 1979, Artiwara completed primary school in Suphanburi before moving to Bangkok to further his studies. He eventually graduated with a law degree from Chulalongkorn University. Artiwara shot to fame as the lead singer of “La-On”, a band formed in 1993 during his days at the prestigious Suankularb Wittayalai School. They released its first album a year later. In 2002, Artiwara shifted from pop rock to indie by joining Bodyslam. In 2006 he won the award for Thailand’s “most dutiful child”. In 2012 he met the love of his life – DJ and actress Rachwin Wongviriya. They tied the knot on November 28 last year and now live in Phuket with their son. Bodyslam most recent album was released in 2019.