Press Release

Sunflower Sky Hike Unites Hikers in Hope

KwaZulu-Natal, June 15, 2022 – 16 years ago, a devastating diagnosis received on Valentine’s Day saw love moved to action. It moved to unite communities in a bid to raise awareness for blood cancer and funds to support the work of DKMS as well as those challenged by a life-threatening diagnosis.

Last updated: 15/06/2022

KwaZulu-Natal, June 15, 2022 – 16 years ago, a devastating diagnosis received on Valentine’s Day saw love moved to action. It moved to unite communities in a bid to raise awareness for blood cancer and funds to support the work of DKMS Africa as well as those challenged by a life-threatening diagnosis. And that same love still moves today, as the 15th Sunflower Hike takes place on the 19th of June 2022. Formerly known as the Sunflower Fund, DKMS Africa, a stem cell registry and donor centre, has been a supporter and beneficiary of the Sunflower Sky Hike, previously known as the Jade Sky Hike, for 15 years.

Initially conceptualised as a 3-day, 200km challenge from the Lesotho border post at Fouriesburg to the Sani Pass border post in KwaZulu-Natal in support of Jade Preston (forever eight years old), the event evolved over the years into one that embraced everyone regardless of their fitness levels. In fact, if it all gets too much, you can call on the Midlands 4x4 Club who stands by to make sure everyone makes it to the top! In the words of Mandy Tyrer, event organiser, “Everyone has their own mountain to climb, the Sunflower Sky Hike represents a very personal overcoming of obstacles for participants who walk in remembrance of loved ones, in honour of those currently challenged by cancer or in celebration of those who climbed their mountain against cancer and won!”

While the hike is for everyone who has lived, loved or lost a loved one, it is anything but sombre. The 8km hike up and 8km hike down the Sani Pass sees the pass lit up with bright yellow Sunflowers as anything from 100 to 150 participants tackle the steep inclines with spirit, driven by love, laughing at memories and motivated by the less than physical overcoming of obstacles they have witnessed by loved ones in treatment. “In this life, we are all just walking up the mountain and we can sing as we climb or we can complain about our sore feet, whichever we choose, we still have to do the hike. I decided a long time ago that singing made a lot more sense,” says Tyrer.

It’s this wonderful attitude and a heartfelt promise made to Jade’s family, the first beneficiary of the hike, that sees the event enter its 15th year conquering Covid-19 in its wake and bringing on board participants from Scotland, Belgium and the UK as the event took to virtual platforms. This year will see a hybrid of virtual and physical events, and both celebrate the global reach of the work of DKMS Africa, either via international virtual participation or the symbolic crossing of the border during the physical event.

“39% of all stem cell donations worldwide are enabled by DKMS Africa. To work towards our goal of finding a matching donor for everyone in need of a stem cell transplant, we need to continue to grow by registering more potential donors from all over the world,” says Palesa Mokomele, Interim Country Manager and Head of Corporate Communications of DKMS Africa.

DKMS Africa offers free donor registration at an organisational cost of around R40 per swab kit issued. This event hopes to raise R10 000 in support of DKMS Africa’s work, which will enable us to issue 250 swab kits with the potential to find matches for patients in need of a donor match.

“We couldn’t be more grateful,” says Palesa, “we are grateful to every single person who will be participating in the hike. This gives assurance and hope to patients that there are people doing their very best to help them. We are incredibly thankful to committed individuals like Mandy and Ian who never stop fighting alongside us”.

The events this year take on a special meaning for Mandy, as she walks to honour the memory of her father, the late Des Wright who passed away in January this year following a battle with brain cancer. A virtual walk will take place at Wright’s prior place of residence, Amberglen Retirement Village in Howick on the 18th of June 2022 at 10:30 am. The physical event takes place on Sani Pass, symbolically on Father’s Day, Sunday the 19th of June at 7.30 am. Passports are essential. Entry fees for the virtual walks are R50 and the physical hike is R120.

Egg & bacon rolls, hamburgers and delicious drinks courtesy of the Midlands 4x4x Club will be on sale at the physical event. All proceeds from the sale of refreshments will go towards the lifesaving work of DKMS Africa.

Anyone interested in taking part can get in touch with Mandy via the Facebook group Sunflower Sky Hike 2022 https://www.facebook.com/groups/270418259732211/ where you can find all Covid protocols. Or contact Mandy on 0824596095 / mandy@maritzburgtutorcentre.co.za

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