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A centenarian, an octogenarian, colourful stones and spirits unite to raise R22 000 for charity

The 15th annual Sunflower Sky Hike, previously known as the Jade Sky Hike took place on Sunday the 19th of June 2022 - and it didn’t disappoint! The 8km hike up and 8km hike down the Sani Pass proved to be as full of heart and as generous of spirit as always.

Last updated: 11/07/2022

The 15th annual Sunflower Sky Hike, previously known as the Jade Sky Hike took place on Sunday the 19th of June 2022 - and it didn’t disappoint! The 8km hike up and 8km hike down the Sani Pass proved to be as full of heart and as generous of spirit as always. The hike which took place as both physical and virtual events, saw more than 200 participants, including teams from the UK and Belgium doing their part in a show of solidarity for individuals awaiting stem cell transplant. Some walked in remembrance of lost loved ones, some walked in celebration of recovery, but all worked for the love of humanity – because like us they believe that no lives should ever be lost simply because a matching donor could not be found for a patient in need. DKMS, a stem cell registry and donor centre has been a supporter and beneficiary of the hike since its inception 15 years ago. “We are so thankful for incredible individuals like event organisers Ian and Mandy Tyrer, who work so tirelessly to support and bring hope to patients suffering from blood malignancies or life-threatening blood disorders,” says DKMS Country Director (acting) Palesa Mokomela. “It is only with the help of passionate individuals like the Tyrer's that we are able to continue to do our life-saving work”.

“We had the most overwhelming support on the Sani Pass on Sunday! It was FANTASTIC!” Says Sunflower Sky Hike organizer Mandy Tyrer. “In spite of border control covid regulations and the exorbitant cost of fuel more than 80 supporters let nothing stand in their way of doing something great for a great cause. They took to the steep Sani Pass with the determination to make a difference and together with those who participated in the 3 virtual and/or actual walks, raised an incredible R22 000. Every grueling step we took near the top of the pass, made us think of how tough cancer patients have it. The reason we were on the mountain made every step worth it!”.

Janine Magree has been participating in the walk since 2017 after she lost her son Bryn, a tissue and organ donor, to a brain aneurysm. She feels the stem cell donation link with organ and tissue transplant is apt and says “I use the hike to honour my son and provide a fitting challenge where I can remember, as I slog up the mountain, the good times spent as a family at the relatively nearby Drakensberg Gardens Resort, where we have a mosaic bench in Bryn's memory”. Since her initial hike, Janine has been painting colourful stones for her son and fellow participants who have lost a loved one or have a loved one fighting cancer. The stones are placed randomly along the trail and at the top of the pass as a reminder to those who find them of the importance of stem cell and organ donation. In a first for the Sunflower Hike, she and rock artist, Michelle Bird, painted a total of 30 stones for the Sunflower Hike this year.

A virtual walk, organized by big-hearted octogenarian Mr Colin Chaplin, saw participation from many of the residents of Waterfall Gardens Retirement Village, including centenarian Mrs Ella Baxter who at 100 years young, proved you are never too old to make a difference in the lives of others. Octogenarian Colin also took part in the strenuous physical event and through his efforts, raised R5 850 for the cause.

The virtual walks were supported internationally by Danny Defour and Jarryd and Tyla Dee Nurden who participated from Belgium and the UK respectively and a very special memorial walk in honour of Des Wright (father of Mandy Tyrer), who passed away in January following a battle with brain cancer, took place at Amberglen Retirement Village. The team at DKMS Africa have been left touched, inspired and encouraged by the wonderful support enjoyed by the 2022 Sunflower Sky Hike. “The show of support for both the physical and virtual events is so appreciated” says Palesa Mokomela “It’s so much more than a walk / hike to us, it’s a reason for all of us to celebrate the beauty of the human spirit and the hope this brings which unites us all”. All funds raised for DKMS Africa will be used for the purposes of growing the stem cell registry so that a donor match can be found for every patient in need of a transplant.

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