Words & Photos: Lisa Mulley
When it comes to doing good deeds, there are a number of great initiatives on the go in South Africa. But one of the more creative and successful ones around is Rent-A-Cow, a venture that raises funds for the CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation SA, a countrywide organisation that provides holistic support for children suffering from cancer and life-threatening blood disorders, as well as their families.
The brainchild of Gerhard Myburgh, this initiative was brought to life in 2012 with Rent-A-Cow providing services for all the Nissan Trailseeker Series races put together by Advendurance. Participants, young and old, novices and seasoned riders, can hire a Cow to rider with them during a race, to either keep them company and or give them cycling advice and tips along the way. This service is also ideal for parents, as it gives mums and dads the opportunity for to go out and ride their own race knowing that their child is being safely accompanied by a Cow on the
10 km or 20 km routes.
The Cows involvement doesn't stop there though. On each route distance, there's a Sweeper Cow that rides at the back of the pack and assists with fixing punctures, making sure no one gets lost, and calling the organisers or emergency services if necessary. 'Til the Cows come home' is the motto of the Sweeper Cows, thus ensuring that no one is left behind on the route.
Since being introduced, Rent-A-Cow has been very well received and is gaining in popularity. We've received numerous compliments from riders who've been helped by a Cow and we've even had one competitor, Nathasia Coetzee, rent a Cow for all five races (40 km route) that she has ridden in.
Rent-A-Cow will be in action at the remaining three races in the Nissan Trailseeker Series for 2013, with the next one being held on 14 September at Van Gaalens Cheese Farm, Skeerpoort (near Hartbeespoort Dam). You will also find them at the Eqstra Spring Classic, which is taking place on 8 September at Avianto, just near Muldersdrift.
So if you were thinking about taking part in anyone of these events, why not go that one pedal further and rent a Cow - be it for yourself, your partner, your friend or your kids - and help make a difference to a CHOC child and their family.
History of the Cows
Words: Roberto Riccardi, Committee Member
The Cows started all because of little girl named Jessica Madison Bain. In April 2007, Jessica was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma Stage 4 at the tender age of 10 months. Her diagnosis came as a shock to her parents and family. The months that followed consisted of weeks at a time in hospital and six rounds of intensive chemotherapy. By October 2007, Jessica was in remission and it was decided that a Stem Cell Transplant would be her best chance at long term survival. The Stem Cell Transplant went well; in fact she took her first step the day after the transplant, showing her tremendous courage and determination.
Unfortunately in January 2008, the cancer was back and this time there could be no more treatment as her little body would not tolerate it. Although her family were determined not to give up hope just yet, by early February 2008 it became apparent that it was now a matter of time. On 27 February 2008, Jessica, now 20-months-old, passed away peacefully at home with her parents. Her spirit and life inspired the creation of The Cows, with her memory living on through all The Cow projects and adventures.
CHOC played a significant role in the Bain family's life in the last few weeks of Jessica’s life, specifically with palliative care and emotional support. During this time, Lynda Schutte, the CHOC Bereavement Counsellor became an absolute rock for the family. Lynda, who has worked with families in this position for over 20 years, guided the family through this very dark time.
In 2008, Kerrin and Grant, Jessica's parents, and a group of friends decided to cycle the 94.7 Cycle Challenge in memory of Jess and raise money for CHOC. Their initial fund raising target was set at R60,000. Dressed in woolly cow suits and supporting one of the riders on an ice cream bike, the eight cyclists completed the race in a time of seven and a half hours and in so doing raised R230,000.
Sensing the momentum triggered by the first stampede, which greatly surpassed their own expectations, the riders named themselves The Cows™ setting a fundraising target of R1 million and began searching for additional riders for the 2009 cycle challenge.
It was agreed that the money raised would go towards buying a CHOC House in Diepkloof Soweto to house the patients receiving treatment at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. After weeks of recruitment drives and fundraising initiatives, 2009 turned into another spectacular success. With more than 140 cyclists riding in an array of cow gear, The Cows successfully closed the year with more than R2.4 million raised for CHOC.
In 2010, the herd increased in size to 270 raising R3.6 million. The funds would be utilised for:
• Childhood cancer education.
• The circle of care, which includes counselling of both children and their families.
• The upgrade and renovation of the paediatric oncology wards at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. The new
oncology ward project was completed in October 2012.
A total of R3.9 million was raised in 2011 by 350 Cows at various events throughout the year for the refurbishment of the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital and the acquisition and service of two CHOC buses for the transportation of patients for the Cape Town and Johannesburg CHOC houses, including the training and staffing of the required medical team. The buses shall provide support in the testing and provision of information services to areas in most need across South Africa.
In 2012, 350 Cows rode the 94.7 and the total raised for the year was R4.2 million from the various events attended by The Cows. The money was raised to support the following projects:
• Building a CHOC House in the Eastern Cape which will act as the home away from home for the child and their family while undergoing treatment for cancer.
• Promoting awareness of childhood cancer by sending a CHOC Cow Awareness vehicle with social work support to outlying areas to educate medical staff on early warning symptoms.
• Paediatric cancer research.
Since their inception in 2008, The Cows have grown in numbers and have taken part in an array of endurance events across South Africa whilst dressed as cows, namely:
• Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour
• Amashova Durban Classic cycle race
• Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon
• The Otter African Trail Run
• The Comrades Marathon
• Spec Savers Ironman South Africa
• The ABSA Cape Epic
• Freedom Challenge
• Riding from Johannesburg to Midmar and then competing in the Midmar 8-mile weekend swims
• Riding from Cape Town to Johannesburg on a single speed BMX
The Cows are committed to extending their success throughout South Africa and ensuring that the monies raised by the herd and other generous donors are utilised correctly by CHOC against each year’s projects and to continue, with much enthusiasm and gusto, the fight against cancer.
For additional information or to join the 2013 stampede, visit www.thecows.co.za
For more information on CHOC, visit www.choc.org.za
For more information on the 2013 Nissan Trailseeker Series, visit http://advendurance.com/Trailseekerseries.
If anyone would like to make a donation towards Rent-A-Cow's fundraising efforts, visit http://teamglad.givengain.org and follow the instructions. Alternatively, you can SMS 'rentacow' to 40021 to donate R20.
CHOC (an acronym for Children’s Haematology Oncology Clinics) was established in 1979 by a parent group in Johannesburg and is the Childhood Cancer Association that plays a key role in providing care for children diagnosed with cancer across South Africa.
It is a countrywide organisation that provides the highest level of care required to treat childhood cancer in keeping with the latest developments worldwide. All funds raised are used to provide all-encompassing support – from direct practical help to the children and their families and those involved in the treatment – to necessary equipment.
Furthermore, the Paediatric Oncology Units in major government hospitals are supported by funds raised by CHOC to enable doctors and nurses to provide quality treatment to children diagnosed with cancer. CHOC does not receive funding from the government but relies heavily on donations from caring corporates, individuals and parents of children with cancer.
In 2000, a national organisation was formed and, today, CHOC has divisions in the Eastern Cape, Free State, Johannesburg, KwaZulu-Natal, Pretoria, and Western Cape. The Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal Divisions have branches to address specific local needs in Port Elizabeth and Pietermaritzburg.