Spina bifida boy’s Cycle Tour dream realised

Words: Hannele Steyn│Photos: Various Chaeli friends

“The Chaeli Campaign shows what a single individual can do to change the lives of others for the better. All you need is a good idea (like sunshine pots) and the enthusiasm to cause a chain reaction ... Chaeli has both!” Clem Sunter – author and motivational speaker.

Boeta, Tina and Hannele at the Cycle Tour 2014.

Photos by: Various Chaeli friends

The Chaeli Campaign is a non-profit organisaton started by Chaeli Mycroft, her sister Erin and close friends, Tarryn, Justine and Chelsea Terry, to raise money for her motorised wheelchair. It was so succesful that 10 years on they now have eight programmes that impact more than 4,000 children each year. They live by the words 'mobilising the minds and bodies of children with disbiliites'.

When my friends, Tina and Debbie, asked me to ride in this year's Cape Argus Pick n Pay Momentum Cycle Tour with them and help make an 11-year-old disabled boy’s dream come true, and raise funds for the Chaeli Campaign, I immediatly thought, “What a great idea.”

Little did I know at the time that it entailed pulling and pushing a buggy, which would be attached to a bike with a spine bifida boy, Boeta, inside. This was to be the first of Boeta’s sporting dreams realised and would be followed by Tina riding the joBerg2c and swimming the Midmar mile later this year with Boeta.

Our practice run for the Cycle Tour involved riding the buggy around stuffed full of dumbells and water bottles, and found it all ok. That was until the Cycle Tour on 9 March, when a south-easter was howling and there was a real little person in the buggy. When I saw the wind, I immediatly started to complain. But when I met Boeta and all the other disabled people on race day at 06h15, I was so humbled that the wind became a breeze of joy. All around me were people in buggies, peole on handcycles, and double and triple amputees, all of them excited and rearing to start the race. No one mentioned the wind.

And then there was Boeta, a tiny guy sitting quietly in the buggy with his helmet and sunglasses donned and ready for action. All you could see was a beaming smile and a set of pearly-white teeth. A gust of wind nearly blew me over and before I could say anything, a rider with no forearms came cruising past me, steering the bike on his elbows.

We were escorted to the start and at 06h57 we set off, only to be blown right around by the wind and ended up facing the wrong way. But I was so motivated and felt so priviledged to be a part of this wonderful cause that no wind, rain or hail was going to dampen my spirits or stop me. After stabilising the buggy we took off once more, with the sound of Boeta’s laugh spurring me on. Tina was pulling the buggy with her road bike, while I was pushing the handle attached to the buggy and using my mountain bike for better balance. Debbie, who is a trained nurse, was there to do any feeding or nappy changes that were necessary because Tina and I are not particularly good in that department.

Into the wind we went and up the first hill, the infamous Hospital Bend, which was quite an eye opener and I think we all started to worry if we would be able to get through this. However, the sound of Boeta’s voice shouting, “Hou bene, hou,” was all the motivation we needed to conquer this and all the other hills along the route. This brave little boy was not bothered by any of the bumps on the road, or the cat eyes, wind gusts and other conditions that made the ride less than comfortable. He was in his element and you could not wipe the smile off his face.

The other riders were incredibly supportive as they shouted out words of encouragement, praise and greetings to Boeta. With his smile growing bigger by the minute, he just kept giving everyone the thumbs up.

On the Blue Route, we were making some good time as the wind was now blowing from behind. However, we saw some horrible falls and struggled to keep the buggy straight. The slightest change in the riding line made me swerve either to the left or right, and with cyclists all around us I think having to concentrate so intensely tired me more than the actual riding.

As we rode through Simonstown, the Cape Doctor was in our faces again and we knew that the first big climb, Smitswinkel, was looming ahead. We made our first stop in Simonstown so that Boeta could drink his ‘sappies’ and eat a energy biscuit, and I cannot deny that it was also a very welcome refuelling station for me.

Feeling enegerised after our stop, we attacked Smitswinkel and here my respect, as well as respect from all the riders around us, grew for Tina, who was pushing every pedal stroke with all her might and still taking the time to check if Boeta was ok. Every now and then she would ask him to help 'push', to which Boeta replied, “Ek stoot, Tina.” All of a sudden Smitswinkel was no longer a feared climb, but rather like a flat road. Before we knew it we were on top. We flew down that hill, with Boeta laughing and singing softly. Although I couldn’t hear everything he said, I could see him thanking every single person who shouted out good wishes to him. While enjoying the break for my legs, all I could think of was how very blessed I am.

Misty Cliffs was as beautiful as always and almost spirtual, and after a little stretch we hit Chappies. Once again the sight of a radiant Boeta kept us inspired and powering ahead, and even when we panicked because of the wind that was blowing us from side to side as we descended, he kept telling me that he wasn’t scared at all.

The support up Suikerbossie was phenomenal and then it was a windy downhill to Camps Bay and the final home stretch. It was only in the last 100 m that it dawned on me that we had done it. All the fears and all the hurt were forgotten and the overwhelming sense and feeling of true purpose took over. We crossed the finish line in a time of 4 hours and 41 minutes, with an overall time of 5 hours and 20 minutes. This was very different to my sub 3-hour Cycle Tour a few years ago, so why did it feel so much better?

It felt better than any win I have ever had in a race and seeing Boeta receiving his medal made it all the more priceless. Thank you to Tina, Debbie and the Chaeli Campaign for giving me this amazing opportunity and blessing my life.

Boeta and Tina.

Photos by: Various Chaeli friends

About Boeta

When Boeta was found in a storm pipe at age 2, his world seemed hopeless. Boeta is disabled and his right to education was denied until two years ago when, at age 9, he met the Chaeli Campaign team. With the introduction of therapies, the receipt of a custom-made wheelchair, daily attendance at the Chaeli Campaign’s enrichment learning centre, as well as the opportunity to be a wheelchair dancer and performer, Boeta now has hope in his life.

About the Chaeli Campaign

The Chaeli Campaign, which is administered by adults and powered by children, has won the International Children’s Peace prize and is also a recipient of a Social Activism medal from the Nobel Peace Laureates. “My biggest strength is that I can do anything.” Chaeli Mycroft

Make a donation

Tina is the Director of Sport at Herzlia High School in Plumstead, and I’ve been coaching her for many years. Not only is she a true inspiration but also an amazing friend and human being. So please support Tina and her friend Johannes, who will be taking part in this year's jobBerg2c, from 25 April to 3 May, to raise funds for the Chaeli Campaign. Every cent helps toward reaching Tina’s goal of raising R100 000,00 by April 2014.

To make a donation, go to www.chaelicampaign.co.za. Altenatively, the bank details are as follows: The Chaeli Campaign, Standard Bank, Blue Route Branch: 025609, account number: 076674150. In both instances, please use ‘Tina’ as your reference. There are also a number of fantastic marketing opportunities to be had if you would like to sponsor Tina and Johannes.

Did you know?

Spina bifida, which literally means 'split spine', is a birth defect in which the bones of the spine (vertebrae) do not form properly around the spinal cord.