By: Dave Abrahams
Cape Town – Even the normally taciturn security guards on the gate had broad grins on their faces as hundreds of bikers rolled into the grounds of the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital on Sunday morning.
The riders were there in support of fund-raising for the Hospital’s desperately needed new intensive care unit – but there’s more to the story than that.
Waseem Salie is the founder of Motorcycle Owners Cape Town, a Facebook group he originally set up to co-ordinate - and record - the runs that he and a group of about half a dozen friends went on. Soon other bikers were asking if they could ride along, and the group began to snowball. It’s now more than 3500 strong, with members all over the Western Cape and beyond.
When Salie heard about the funds needed for the new ICU at Red Cross, his first reaction was to put his hand in his own pocket – but then he decided to take it to another level altogether by leveraging the size and clout of the group. He went public on the group’s Facebook page with a pledge, challenging all the members to do the same, with the aim of raising R10 000 for the Hospital Trust.
With the added input of another Facebook bikers group, Cape Town Breakfast Runs, that amount – and more – was reached in the first three days. Which was when Salie contacted the head of fundraising for the Children’s Hospital Trust, Chantel Cooper, to ask if the group could deliver their donation in person.
And that’s how it came about that more than 200 riders and pillions on 140 motorcycles - from a 16-year-old schoolgirl on a 125cc scooter to a couple on an 1832cc Gold Wing complete with trailer arrived in procession at the hospital on Sunday morning. Many brought toys as gifts for the patients in the hospital, and nearly every one made a beeline for the wooden box set up for cash donations.
Salie, visibly moved by the number of riders that had backed his initiative, thanked everybody for attending and announced, to huge applause, that the total amount raised electronically and in cash on the day was R22 300 – more than double his original target – which Cooper said was the biggest single non-corporate donation the ICU project had yet received.
Cooper explained why the Children’s Hospital was in such desperate need of fundraising, and David Stephens, executive director of the Friends of the Children’s Hospital, highlighted the work done by volunteers at the hospital.
Both Salie and the founder of Cape Town Breakfast Runs, William WrenchMonkey Rossouw, pledged – to enthusiastic support from the riders - that their respective groups would stay involved the with Children’s Hospital through further initiatives such as this one.