I wanted to fundraise for a cause close to my heart. I ended up breaking a world record in the process.
- Posted on August 23, 2022
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
In August 2018, my wife and I were notified that our 3-month-old daughter was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot (ToF) with an absent pulmonary valve – a combination of heart defects that were present from birth and affect the structure of the heart and cause oxygen-poor blood to flow from the heart to the rest of the body. Before she was even a year old, she would need open-heart surgery. At an angiogram the day before her surgery, we were informed that our little girl had five holes in her heart. And on Feb. 7, 2019, our daughter had her successful open-heart surgery in a six-hour procedure.
During this time, our family was in the middle of the emigration process to Ireland from South Africa. In March 2019, we were given the go-ahead to fly with her for the first time. After her last vaccines, on the May 1, 2019, we were on a flight to our new home: Ireland.
During the four days when my daughter was in ICU recovering from the procedure, we met many families that were visiting children with similar heart conditions. We witnessed situations where families didn’t get the chance to hold their babies before they were rushed off to surgery only to lose them during surgery. We also met families from different walks of life that would end up with a lifetime of paying off medical bills due to not being on a medical plan with suitable coverage for congenital heart conditions. We were also made aware of families that would not be able to pay for the surgery and as a result, their children would not survive. If not for our medical plan that covered the operation, we would have had to pay roughly one million Rand (€57k) before they would have agreed to operate.
Once we knew my daughter was going to be OK, my concern shifted to the families that would lose their children because they cannot afford the surgery and for all the families that were digging themselves into a financial hole that they would probably spend the rest of their lives.
Back in South Africa, I’d been a competitive cyclist, a hobby I had all but given up after finding cycling in the Irish weather too challenging. However, fast forward two-and-a-half years, and I cooked up a plan to raise money to help someone afford to save their child’s life. In July 2022, I made an attempt to break the World Ultracycling Association for the fastest time cycling from the easternmost point of Ireland (Wicklow Head Lighthouse) to the Westernmost tip (Slea Head), a total distance of roughly 390km, in less than 13 and a half hours, all to raise money for the Maboneng Foundation, a non-profit organization raising money to sponsor life-saving surgeries for African children suffering from congenital heart defects and other life-threatening heart conditions.
Training for this event was intense. I spent between two to three hours a day training (up to 10 hours on Saturdays), and Avanade’s flexibility policies made that happen. I knew I could start my day a little later or end it a little earlier and be able to really spend the time on the bike I needed each day. I know it would have been near impossible to train for this race without the flexibility I have at Avanade.
On race day, thankfully, I felt over-prepared. There were perfect weather conditions and a convenient side-tail wind on most of the route . Some of my Avanade colleagues were even there at the finish to cheer me on. Throughout the race, updates on my bike computer let me know I was ahead of where I needed to be timewise to beat the record – my training paid off, and I broke the world record!
When I first began this venture, I only set out to raise $1,000, enough to cover accommodation for one family to stay near the hospital, but once Avanade Ireland’s General Manager heard about this effort, he pushed me to raise my goal to $5,000 and suggested we share this story with my colleagues across Avanade UKI. Soon more and more colleagues were contacting me wondering how my training was going and asking how they could donate! So far, our GoFundMe received over $7500, most of which I know is from my colleagues at Avanade. Without the support from the Avanade UKI team, we could not have raised nearly as much money for Maboneng Foundation, and without Avanade’s flexibility, I could not have dedicated the proper time to training.