Robben Island to Cape Town crossing in aid of children’s hospital, writes Zizonke May
Kitted out in a pink costume and funky green goggles, Jeffrey’s Bay tween Abriella Bredell yesterday became the youngest person ever to swim the gruelling, almost 8km from Robben Island to Cape Town.
And she did it for a good cause – raising money for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.
Aside from setting a record, the big-hearted 11-year-old aimed to raise R2-million for the hospital through a crowdfunding initiative.
Yesterday, Abriella said: “My coach inspired me. He actually wanted to do the Robben Island, and then I wanted to raise money for charity. I wanted to do some good by doing the swim.”
At first Abriella’s father, Pierre, 33, did not share his determined daughter’s enthusiasm for the challenge.
“When she first told me about the swim, I said there [was] no way she was going to do it, because it’s so much effort,” he said.
But, after a year- and-a-half of nagging by Abriella, he and his wife had relented.
“My wife said, ‘Okay let’s do it, let’s support her’, and I did the best I could and that’s how we got here today.”
Asked what had inspired them to choose Cape Town’s Red Cross Children’s Hospital as the beneficiary, he said he had advised his daughter to do so. He hoped that Abriella’s selfless action would inspire other children of her age to make a difference.
“They are the future of South Africa basically, the young generation, so I said, ‘ Go ahead and try and help kids and make a difference.’”
Abriella was initially set to attempt the feat in December but had to wait for perfect weather to make the swim from the island to Cape Town.
An excited Abriella said she had always believed she would overcome the challenge.
“I knew I was going to make it . . . I’ve been swimming since I was two, and my open-water swimming has improved a lot in kilometres. I was doing 500m, up to 1,2km [and] now 8km.
“I saw three jellyfish, and seals. My dad told me afterwards . . . when I got into the water he started crying.”
Pierre confirmed this, saying: “I’m quite a tough man hey, but I cried. When she got into the water and said, ‘Dad I’ll see you later’, that was pretty emotional for me.”
He said his main concern had not been Abriella’s safety but rather that she might not complete the swim after all the time and effort she had put in.
“Her disappointment – I didn’t know how I would’ve eased her out of it.”
So far Abriella has raised R108 195 for the hospital. The initiative is ongoing, with donation lines still open.
Abriella said after the swim the family had had a celebratory lunch. “I’m just going to spoil myself. The past [few] months were the worst . . . not a lot of sugar. I was not allowed to do a lot of active things, and was going to bed early.”