UNICEF Milky Way Race 2023 started!

The first day of the Milky Way gathers more than 6,000 participants – registrations are open until September 24

14 September 2023

Zagreb, September 15, 2023 – The seventh UNICEF humanitarian race Milky Way has begun! For the second year in a row, the race is held to support the mental health of children and young people in schools. To continue the important conversation about mental health and breaking stigma, UNICEF set up interactive installations in the very center of Zagreb, at Ban Josip Jelačić Square, and held a symbolic Mental Health Support Exercise Class. UNICEF ambassadors Bojana Gregorić Vejzović and Mirna Medaković Stepinac, and Milky Way race ambassador Marija Andrijašević, sat down in “School benches full of emotions” and in front of the “Chalkboard of support​”, and together with partners and visitors, they went through “Paths of Support to Mental Health” and played the “Hopscotch of safe steps”.

Over 6,000 participants, including 1859 children and over 300 teachers, are taking part in the race, which is national and inclusive, this year as well, and will take place from September 15 to 24, via mobile application, on thousands of paths across Croatia. Registration is possible until the last day at www.mlijecnastaza.hr, and everyone can participate – children and young people, families, individuals, organisations, and companies, and support the program for mental health of children and young people in schools with their registration fees. 

With the funds raised, UNICEF will support the implementation and expansion of the “Schools of Support” program to strengthen the resilience and mental health of students and teachers, which is carried out in cooperation with the Forum for Freedom of Education, with the support of the Education and Teacher Training Agency. It is estimated that by investing in the implementation of the programme after the Milky Way Race 2023 more than 450 teachers, headteachers and expert staff will be educated to support the mental health of children and young people, and more than 13,000 primary and secondary school students will benefit from the programme activities. 

“Since we started our campaign to support mental health in schools we have talked to many children and young people about their experiences, expectations, and insecurities they face when dealing with mental health difficulties. They’re telling us how they lack support and understanding by adults, they are afraid of stigma and silence, and this is sometimes harder for them to cope with than the problem itself. Initiating the conversation about mental health is the responsibility of adults, especially those with whom children spend most of their time with – teachers at schools. We want to provide teachers and other professionals in schools with the knowledge and skills necessary to act as first aid, support, and protection to students. This year, 6.000 of us will participate – we will run, walk, ride a bike, on thousands of paths across Croatia for ten days and I am sure we will continue creating a social momentum around mental health. I thank everyone who joined us this year, especially our corporate partners, as well as all corporate teams, other informal teams, schools, families, children, young people, and all the stars of the Milky Way race”, said Regina M. Castillo, Representative of UNICEF Office for Croatia. 

Regina M. Castillo sent an invitation together with Margareta Mađerić, state secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy, Daria Kurtić, acting director of the Education and Teacher Training Agency, Ana Munivrana, executive director of the Forum for Freedom in Education, Marija Franić, Head of Corporate Communications Kaufland Hrvatska and Iva Prpić, from the City of Zagreb. 

“After spending several years in children's oncology and school in a hospital that took place one-on-one, returning to school was quite shocking, somewhat traumatic, and extremely demanding. The fact that I had to appear in front of the school board in front of about twenty colleagues left me in a paralyzing fear that held me back. From the moment I heard compassion in the teacher's words, suddenly facing the world seemed much different and easier", shared Barbara Vukas, a young ambassador for the rights of children and young people. 

The UNICEF humanitarian race Milky Way 2023 is held under the auspices of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, the President of the Republic of Croatia Zoran Milanović and the Ministry of Science and Education. Kaufland Hrvatska, the main sponsor since the first edition of the race, this year, apart from their sponsorship donation, will additionally donate 1 euro for each registered participant. Golden star of the race – Privredna banka Zagreb will additionally support the participation of 200 students from the Sisak-Moslavina County. Other sponsor partners include Bina-Istra and Njuškalo. Milky Way Race is supported by many young people, athletes, artists, influencers, high-ranking officials, and others – you can read all the messages of support HERE (we will add the link once published!). 

Registration for the UNICEF Milky Way race: www.mlijecnastaza.hr, more information is available at www.unicef.org/croatia where you can also find Tips for Preserving Mental Health.



--- UNICEF humanitarian Milky Way Race – achievements in the first 6 years ---  

This year, the Milky Way Race is held for the seventh time in a row, and in the period from 2017 to 2022 it created a huge social momentum, gathered over 26.000 participants and UNICEF raised over HRK 5.5 million (EUR 736.000) to support children in Croatia. The funds were invested in supporting the establishment of the national human milk bank, providing financial support aid to foster families with the youngest children, providing equipment for all maternity wards in Croatia, equipment of sensory cabinets and providing sensory therapy training for children with disabilities, supporting establishment of day care and psychosocial support for children with disabilities and support for parents in areas where such services are least accessible or absent. Last year (2022), with the support of donors, UNICEF provided HRK 1.1 million (almost 150,000 EUR) for the implementation of the program to support the mental health of children in schools (PoMoZi Da), which will benefit more than 25.000 primary school pupils and secondary school students.

Media contacts

Morana Tuškan
Communication Associate


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