Kidz the Ironman winners

Neale Emslie

WHEN Port Elizabeth Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa competitors Garth Wright and Gary Stephenson begin to feel the pain in the ultra-endurance event, they are enthusiastically reminded by the children they assist that “anything is possible”.

That is the mantra the businessmen, who have been friends since junior school days at Muir in Uitenhage, have adopted as they go about their task of making life a little better for children less fortunate.

And to prove that “anything is possible”, the pair have created the Ironman 4 the Kidz Charity Trust and essentially have increased their fund-raising efforts from an initial R11000 to a staggering R1.5-million in eight years. Now they are aiming for R1.6-million and have increased their support to charities from one, the Eastern Province Child and Youth Care Centre, to 12 child-based centres. Stephenson believes it is one of the biggest fund-raising efforts in Port Elizabeth and he would love to see more Bay businesses get involved.

“We have support from the big companies in Johannesburg, but we would love to see a big cash injection from local businesses as well because we are a little short of our target at this stage,” he said.

At the launch for this year’s 4 the Kidz Charity drive this month, Wright shared their message of love, hope and care, with hope the most important.

“There’s no life less lived than a life without hope,” the former Springbok rugby scrumhalf said.

The Ironman 4 the Kidz Charity Trust, which Wright and Stephenson initiated in 2005, attempts to assist mainly in education, counselling, sport advancement and much-needed repairs to certain facilities.

“It is a special feeling to go back to some of the homes and see what has been done,” Stephenson said. “You can see the benefits in many tangible ways and our books are open – anyone can view what we are doing with the money raised.

“We keep expenses to a minimum and the great percentage of the funds raised go to the charities.”

Eastern Province Child and Youth Care Centre official Terry Hattingh confirmed the critical support the home received from the Charity Trust.

“It means a lot for our young people, because only 40% of our costs is covered by the government,” she said. “KFC Ironman 4 the Kidz is our biggest donor.”

The children themselves have been given opportunities to participate in the Ironman South Africa weekend, taking part in the Pritt Ironkids event on Saturday. You can sense the pride they have in their achievement as they proudly display their medals.

And when Stephenson and Wright begin to suffer on April 14, the children are there in support to remind them that it is all worthwhile.

THERE are several ways funds are generated for the Ironman 4 Kidz Charity Trust:

Athletes secure sponsorship annually for the Spec-Savers Ironman 70.3 South Africa or the Ironman South Africa which allows them to participate in their sponsor’s company logo.

Corporates, small businesses and companies regularly budget for contributions to the trust.

Optional online donations are made by participating athletes when they register for any World Endurance Africa event, including the Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa, Iron Girl South Africa, the Vodacom Corporate Triathlon Challenge and Pritt Ironkids South Africa.

You can track an athlete at the Ironman South Africa by registering an athlete’s race number via SMS on 39408 to get regular updates, and a portion of the fee will go to the charity (open to all South African networks).

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