Bovines are typically classified as slow and gentle creatures. Yet this is certainly not the case with the CHOC Cows, a fundraising arm of CHOC (Childhood Cancer Foundation). Dressed in fluffy spotted cow suits, this group of passionate activists push the limits of their bodies to raise funds for children with cancer.
Childhood cancer affects between 800 and 1 000 South African children under the age of 15 each year and it was in the face of this reality that the concept of the CHOC Cows was birthed. Jessica Madison Bain was only 10 months old when diagnosed with Neuroblastoma Stage 4. Just under a year later, following intense treatment, Jessica passed away. Out of this tragedy, a hope for other children with cancer was born.
During Jessica’s ordeal, her parents, Kerrin and Grant, donned cow suits and rode the 94.7 cycle challenge to raise money for CHOC. Their aim was to raise R50,000 but their efforts produced over 4 times that amount. Their passion and dedication was contagious and 7 years after the first ride, the ‘herd’ (which by now was more like a ‘stampede’) of more than 150 riders, raised over R3 million.
Individual CHOC ‘Cows’ now do events all over South Africa, including the arduous Iron Man competition. Their goal in 2015 is to raise over R4 million to help CHOC expand and improve their programmes.
CHOC plays a vital role in assisting children with cancer in South Africa and runs homes which are essential to the survival of many of the children. The homes are based close to hospitals with oncology wards – allowing young patients and their caretakers to stay over when treatment is needed. Without these homes away from home many patients opt to abandon treatment because of the great distances they need to travel. In addition, CHOC has a country-wide awareness campaign. Public awareness of the symptoms of childhood cancer is vital. If the cancer is detected early, then chances of surviving the disease may be as high as 77%.
Here are the projects they are hoping to get funded in 2015:
- Sponsoring two rooms at the CHOC lodge in Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, Durban
- Running costs for two CHOC houses in Gauteng – one in Saxonwold, and the other in Diepkloof
- Psycho-social support is imperative to the families and children affected by childhood cancer. The Cows will fund the salaries of five Social Workers and two Social Auxiliary Workers, situated in Paediatric Oncology treatment centers (in Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Free State)
- Funding for the salary and costs of a new Programme Coordinator in the Western Cape and Namakwa Region
- Funds for a new programme vehicle in the Kalahari region where it is needed for programmes aiming to raise awareness of the early warning signs of childhood cancer
- Essential maintenance to CHOC houses in Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria