(Howick) – The aQuellé Midmar Mile, which earned the title of the world’s largest open water swimming event in 2009, is also shaping up as a leading fundraiser for charities countrywide – a lifeline for many, given the lagging economy.
Drawing amateur and serious athletes of all ages, this weekend’s two-day event is set to net charities throughout South Africa in the region R3-million.
Over 13,000 swimmers from across the country are expected to descend on Midmar Dam near Pietermaritzburg for the 45th edition of South Africa’s premier open water race. Among them will be the 200-plus members of the 8 Mile and 16 Mile clubs, who have already surpassed last year’s R2-million benchmark for worthy causes in the lead-up to race day.
The 8-Milers – so called for the distance each member swims for charity – will swim each of the eight mile-long events on Saturday and Sunday to collect as much money as possible for their seven chosen charities. These are breast cancer charity Pink Drive, Singakwenza Education and Health, Childhood Cancer Foundation (CHOC), Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, KZN Wildlife for Save the Rhino, Wildlands Conservation Trust and the Cancer Association of South Africa.
Former East Coast Radio DJ Brad Ray, 40, now living in Johannesburg, will be completing his fifth 8-Mile challenge. He and his sister, Abigail Ray, will be swimming on behalf of Singakwenza, a non-profit organisation that works to improve the lives of disadvantaged children through early childhood education programmes.
“I am a huge believer in education having the power to change people’s lives for the better, and what Singakwenza does for young children is amazing,” said Brad. “I knew the bigger charities would have support already, and the smaller charities need the money more.”
Joining the 8-Milers is former Paralympic silver medallist Terence Parkin, who is on a 902km cycle-swim-run journey to raise funds for the Deaf Children’s Learn to Swim and Water Safety Programme.
Their 16 Mile Club counterparts will also complete all the events, swimming back to the start after each one to double the distance. All monies raised by this mammoth effort will be donated to the Duzi Umngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT), which is dedicated to protecting the uMsunduzi and uMngeni rivers.
Gary Albertyn, 49, of Pretoria, swam his first 16-Miler for DUCT two years ago. This weekend he swims with Cape Town’s looming “Day Zero” in mind.
“I think that with the reality of Day Zero looming in Cape Town and the water restrictions that exist in many parts of our country, clean water sources are more important than ever. DUCT provides a life-changing service and being part of the fundraising team for them is an honour,” said Albertyn.
He, together with his wife Megan, daughters Kaitlyn and Megan, and son Connor, will be out to regain their title in the family relay race after narrowly missing out on a hat-trick last year.
“We as a family have been doing the aQuellé Midmar Mile since 2012. This year, both Megan and Kaitlyn are doing eight miles again for Pink Drive.”
Race director Wayne Riddin said the spin-off of the event as a major national fundraiser showed the true heart of South Africans.
“We are incredibly happy that it has become a platform for swimmers to challenge themselves both physically and mentally, and to challenge their friends and families to contribute to their fundraising efforts,” said Riddin.
Suzelle Stegen, marketing manager for aQuellé, said the water brand was proud to support such great initiatives.
“Helping the community is a key element of our brand. We love the fact that families, clubs and corporate teams can come together and take part in a healthy, water-based activity that spreads the joy and does so much good for many worthy causes,” said Stegen.