A 7,000km bike ride to raise money for surgeries

Ride for a Child passed through Port Alfred on Sunday on their nearly 7,000km fundraising trek around South Africa.

IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL: The Ride for a Child bikers and their support vehicle passed through Port Alfred on Sunday. The project by Pediatric Care Africa raises funds for life-saving surgeries for children whose families cannot afford it. From left are Dr Andre Hattingh, executive director of Pediatric Care Africa, fellow biker Kevin Gelderbloem, support driver Sarel Ainslie and biker Andre Steinman Picture: JON HOUZET

Started by Pediatric Care Africa, the Ride for a Child project is in its fourth year and aims to raise more than R5-million to perform life-saving surgeries for 70 children whose families lack the means to pay for such treatment.

“Last year we could only do 24 surgeries because of the Covid lockdown,” said Dr Andre Hattingh, executive director of Pediatric Care Africa and founder of Ride for a Child.

Pediatric Care Africa is based in White River, Mpumalanga, where the journey started and will end.

Hattingh, a retired neurosurgeon, is one of three riders doing the whole trip around South Africa. His fellow bikers are Andre Steinman and Kevin Gelderbloem, and their support driver is Sarel Ainslie.

When they reached Alexandria, they were joined by an entourage of more than 30 bikers from Port Alfred and Makhanda (Grahamstown), who rode with them to Port Alfred. The Ndlambe traffic and fire departments, Gardmed and Sky Alarms also provided an escort.

People can donate R30 to Ride for a Child by smsing CHILD to 42515. The bikers have also been sponsored per kilometre, and gratefully receive donations in a lockbox they carry with them, which will only be opened back in White River.

They received a donation from R72 Motors when they stopped over briefly on Sunday.

“We’ll only see how much money we’ve raised at the end of the ride,” Hattingh said.

“We’ve done just under 5,000km so far, with just under 2,000km to go.”

Hattingh said the surgeries they raise money for cost an average of R59,000, but some are much more expensive. “For example, a heart valve replacement can cost about R800- to R900,000.”

Pediatric Care Africa also plans to take 400 children to see specialists this year.

The beneficiaries of these surgeries are referred to them by welfare departments and general practitioners across South Africa.

“We’re also registered in the Netherlands to help with fundraising there,” Hattingh said.

“Most of the cities and towns we go through we get biker support. Except for the tiny Karoo towns where there’s nobody,” he said.

“We’ve done the most northern part of South Africa, the most western and the most southern. The most eastern will be Cosi Bay. We stopped over to visit orphanages in Upington and Cape Town and will also visit an orphanage in Durban.

“Before Covid we’d also take the kids for a ride,” he added.

Durban will also serve as a stopover for the bikers to wash clothes and rest before the final haul to Pietersburg and then White River.

The biggest single stretch they have done in a day is 740km, while the shortest is 220km.

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