Durban – In amongst the thousands of riders lining up for the start of the 45km Fun Ride at the aQuellé Tour Durban presented by Sunday Tribune on Sunday 26 April will be a group of passionate road cyclists dressed in eye-catching cows suits, determined to continue the awareness and fundraising for children suffering with cancer.
"The Cows" have become a distinctive feature of the aQuellé Tour Durban, and last year were cheered on by fellow riders and spectators as they completed the ride in their bovine attire.
The Cows project was started in 2008, by friends close to the family of one-year old Jessica Bain, who died from cancer. Her parents Kerrin and Grant Bain threw their weight behind a pilot fundraiser for CHOC (The Childhood Cancer Foundation of South Africa) at the 94.7 Cycle Challenge in memory of their daughter.
The project caught the imagination of the race and the public and snowballed as a fundraiser and awareness drive for the fight against childhood cancer.
Soon a passionate KwaZulu-Natal branch was formed, determined to use their desire to challenging themselves at a wide variety of sporting events to contribute towards the fight against childhood cancer.
Pinetown businessman Gordon Reid has been involved with The Cows for several years and this year is hoping to take the involvement of The Cows to the next level, and involve as many new riders as possible.
"Our motto is simple - Love Living Life," says Reid. " When it all started at the 2008 94.7 the people involved tried to get matching costumes to ride in and all they could find was six cow suits. That's where The Cows was born!"
"It is open to anyone," he explained. "At an entry level we expect each person to raise R6000 before the race. For that they get their own cow cycling kit and get to ride with The Cows during the race. There are also categories for Super Cows, Calves and Apocalypse Cows. For the extra nutty cows who raise in excess of R20 000 the opportunity to ride in a full cow suit is also an option.
"Corporates can get involved, and a R30 000 contribution allows them to sponsor an ice cream bike that will be ridden by The Cows with their branding on," he added.
"It is so much fun. We go out there to have as much fun as possible, cause the nicest chaos we can, make a lot of noise and raise awareness and funds at the same time. It is real FUNdraising!
"What makes it so special is that we can see every cent we raise going to work. It is palpable. Every one of us has been affected by cancer in some way and this is a powerful way to do something about it while we are out having a good time and keeping fit."
Reid said that the KZN chapter, or is it a herd, of The Cows was targeting R217 000 needed to refurbish the children's oncology facility at Grey's Hospital in Pietermaritzburg.
"It is addictive," said Reid. "As part of our current KZN campaign we have just heard that an anonymous donor has, through their lawyer, made a R90 000 donation. It is generosity like that that makes being part of The Cows so special."
The race has committed to allowing a separate batch made up entirely of The Cows to start as the first batch of the 45km Fun Ride if 100 riders or more sign up for The Cows.
Since the founding ride in the 2008 94.7 The Cows have raised over R21 million for CHOC.
The annual aQuellé Tour Durban is deeply rooted to the Domino Foundation that benefits as the official race charity. They have welcomed the efforts of The Cows as another tangible way that this iconic sporting event can benefit the broader community.