Words: Dave Macleod | Photo: Anthony Grote
Underberg – Amongst the hundreds of boats lining up for the start of the N3TC Drak Challenge this weekend will be plucky elite female racer Danica Bartho, with a pink canoe and pink-dyed hair, passionate about channelling her energies into supporting cancer suffer and close friend Nikki Haynes.
Haynes, who is currently battling the disease and is on an intensive radiotherapy programme, inspired Bartho to start the Lettie Paddle initiative late last year where she raised a substantial amount of money to assist with medical costs by becoming the first woman ever to paddle from Richards Bay to Durban on a surfski.
For Bartho, however, the initiative is now about highlighting the gutsy fight against cancer being waged by her friend while raising as much awareness of the disease as possible and inspire others to tackle a seemingly overwhelming challenge in their lives.
"I am blown away by how courageous and brave she is," said Bartho after visiting Haynes. "She is not giving up.
"The doctors are positive about the next step to beat this disease and if anyone can do it, it is Lettie. Her light is still shinning so brightly, there is a sparkle in her eye and a smile on her face," said Bartho.
"I have decided to dedicate my 2014 Drak Challenge race to Lettie as a way of showing her that I believe in her. I know it's insignificant in comparison to the challenges she is facing every day but I challenge everyone to do the same in support of someone close to them."
Bartho is appealing to other paddlers who share her passion for the fight against cancer to wear pink and dedicate their paddle to someone they know fighting cancer. "It's a small token of hope to those fighting against cancer and a way of showing our love and support," said Bartho.
"I want people to know that the real heroes are Zoog and Nikki Haynes," she added. "I'm just sharing their story hoping to inspire others as they have inspired me."
"Life is short so make every day count. Don't be scared to challenge yourself. Make a difference in someone's life and never take your health vitality and mobility for granted!"
The N3TC Drak Challenge 2014 starts on 18 January at Castleburn outside Underberg and finishes on 19 January at Hopewell Farm close to Coleford. More information can be found at www.drak.co.za