An extreme effort to make a difference

LONG ROAD AHEAD: Bert Van der Walt and André van Bavel with a police escort following them during the 2013 tour.

ALBERTON – When Alberton business man, André van Bavel, said “Yes’’ to the challenge of his cycling partner Casper Kruger, also an Alberton resident in 2013, he did not think it would change his life much.

The challenge was to cycle all the way from Johannesburg to Cape Town in 10 days and then to join Casper to participate in the Pick n Pay Cape Argus Cycle Race as a grand finale.

To the top 10 Cape Argus Tandem cyclist, cycling such long distances day after day seemed like the perfect warm-up for the Cape Argus, and he immediately said yes. The 2013 Xtreme For Kids Cycling Tour started on a warm Thursday morning at the end of February. André and the two other cyclists, Dirk Lourens and Bert Van Der Walt.

AN EYE-OPENER: André van Bavel from Florentia, Alberton said that the first tour was a life-changing experience and that he will proudly tackle the challenge every year.

AN EYE-OPENER: André van Bavel from Florentia, Alberton said that the first tour was a life-changing experience and that he will proudly tackle the challenge every year.

On route they were joined by singer Matthys Roets and members of the SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit at a local high school. Here the cyclists shared their important message that men must not rape and abuse. They also astounded the children with their plan to cycle so far to spread this message.

The 2013 tour was extreme indeed. With only one back-up vehicle, no medical support and after care services, the group had to rely on their own strengths to deal with all the challenges. They took the wrong route in the Free State and ended up cycling until late at night. In the Karoo the tires burst, because of the scorching heat of 46 degrees Celsius. Storm winds and rain welcomed them in Robertson, but they pushed through and 11 days later, the three cyclists became the first official Xtreme For Kids cyclists and also the brand ambassadors.

A life changing experience

But what touched their hearts and changed their lives, was that which they experienced at the stops at the seven schools on their route. As André said after the tour: “It touched me when I saw how sad some of the children were. You could see in their eyes that they knew what we were talking about.” All three men realised that this tour was not about cycling only, and were unanimous in their decision to do it all over in 2014.

This year they were joined by a group of nine other cyclists who cycled shorter distances and also helped with the talks at the schools. A very special addition to the 2014 tour was the challenge put out to the children with a special reward for one child at each of the schools on their way. Children were encouraged to be heroes by reporting abuse, by helping those who are abused and by not abusing.

HUGE IMPACT: Dirk Lourens says: "Knowing that this cycle tour would be a great and unique way to spread the message against child abuse, I could never foresee the huge impact it had on my own life."

HUGE IMPACT: Dirk Lourens says: “Knowing that this cycle tour would be a great and unique way to spread the message against child abuse, I could never foresee the huge impact it had on my own life.”

Each kid was given a Hero pledge form to fill in, and at the end of the presentation a lucky draw was held. A sponsorship by Exxaro made it possible to hand over a bicycle at each of the seven schools, as well as at the end of the tour in Durbanville.

The joy of the winners was infectious. In Middelburg the teachers started crying when they heard who the winner was. The little girl was the poorest but most deserving child in the school. When the group of cyclists left Middelburg after lunch, they saw the little girl on her bicycle being escorted into the informal settlement by the headmaster in this car with flashing lights.

In a small Boland town the announcement of the 12-year-old winner’s name was not met with great joy. It was only when the winner stood up and made a profound statement, “I will not bully again”, that the whole school burst into applause. It turned out that he was the school bully!

NEW PERSPECTIVE: "The tour provided us with a new perspective and framework to work with. It left me with a lifetime of memories," said Bert van der Walt.

NEW PERSPECTIVE: “The tour provided us with a new perspective and framework to work with. It left me with a lifetime of memories,” said Bert van der Walt.

After 10 days in the saddle, the group was welcomed outside Durbanville by a huge police escort and Springbok cyclists. They were escorted to Durbanville police station, where they received a hero’s welcome, complete with “boerewors” on the braai, entertainment and even dancing!

Gearing up for 2015

The next day they were joined by the rest of the Xtreme For Kids Cape Argus group and cycled with them. Included in this group was actor Ivan Zimmerman, who listened in awe at all the stories the group had to share. Xtreme For Kids 2014 raised more than R100 000 for Matla A Bana – a voice against child abuse (who is also the organiser of the tour). These funds are used to assist child victims of abuse who report the crimes. The group shared in the success when, after a long day of cycling, they took part in the opening of the first Child Friendly Reporting Facility at the SAPS FCS Unit in Mosselbay.

The three brand ambassadors are already making plans for the 2015 Xtreme For Kids Cycle Tour. Next year they want to make it even more extreme by adding some mountain bike sections and adding a play as part of the schools program. It is still unclear if they will do the acting, but what is certain – in 2015 they will be doing the cycling!

More about Extreme for Kids Cycle Tour

* In 2013 they cycled 1 800km, spoke to 8 000 school children and their message reached more than 1 million people.

* 10 other cyclists joined in 2014 – some doing a 1 000km challenge, while others hosted talks at schools, they visited eight schools and reached more than 8 000 children and introduced the Hero Pledge, encouraging children not to abuse and to help others to report abuse, and 20 other cyclist joined them at the Cape Argus riding in brand new ‘No 2 Child Abuse’ cycling shirts.

* Join the team: They have five places available for interested riders at a cost of R15 000 per participating person. This includes accommodation from February 26 to March 8; main meals, entry to the Cape Argus (charity group start time) and hospitality at the end; two Extreme cycling shirts; and an experience you will never forget.

* Take part: They are also asking riders to participate in their fundraising challenge. Last year R100 000 was raised and one of the cyclists won a wonderful weekend away.

* The 2015 tour team will be limited to a maximum of 15 people, including the three ambassadors, one celebrity rider, five guests (500km, 1 000km or 2 000km challenge), three volunteers actors/cyclists, two back-up crew and one camera man. This group will be joined in Cape Town by 30 other Xtreme cyclists for the Cape Argus on March 8, 2015.

Visit their Facebook page Xtremeforkids Cycle Tour for more information.

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