The funds will go to the families of front-line workers who passed away from COVID-19, as many of those families have been left destitute with their breadwinners gone.
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (04 May 2022) – Despite more than a month still left to go before his birthday target on 9 June, 89-year-old Bill Wedderburn completed his 900km by 90 years front-line workers charity drive on Friday, 29 April.
The mid-South Coast philanthropist was cheered on by fellow Renishaw Hills residents as he completed his final kilometre – to the rousing sounds of Chariots of Fire – raising much-needed funds for the families of healthcare workers affected by COVID-19.
“We are so proud of Bill’s incredible achievement that has touched the lives of so many people, far and wide, since he started in June last year,” said Phil Barker of Renishaw Property Developments.
“He is the true embodiment of the community spirit and nature of giving that is found within Renishaw Hills. We are so proud. He is a real inspiration to people of all ages regarding purpose, goals, dedication and compassion for those in need. I hope Bill becomes a shining example of the good that can be achieved by each and every one of us. We all have our part to play.”
Bill got the idea for this charity initiative during his time at Netcare Kingsway Private Hospital in January 2021 while recovering from a COVID-19 infection. Living with chronic kidney disease and being a prostate cancer survivor, Bill was considered high risk. However, the dedicated medical fraternity did everything they could to ensure his recovery during his two-week hospitalisation.
In fact, it was during his stay that Bill learned of the death of a 36-year-old nurse, Hlengiwe Mbeje, an employee of Netcare Kingsway Hospital who’d died of COVID-19 shortly before he was admitted. Mbeje is one of many healthcare workers who have died as a result of contracting COVID-19 while caring for patients.
This tragedy, coupled with the incredible support he’d received, prompted Bill to do something in return.
Wedderburn started his fundraising effort by walking 2km a day around his retirement village in Scottburgh, KwaZulu-Natal, and aimed to increase the distance and clock 100km for every decade of his life before he tured 90, little did he know that he would complete 900km a month ahead of schedule.
“My main aim continues to raise funds for the families of healthcare workers who have died from COVID but I also want to draw a collection of hero stories and messages of thanks and appreciation,” said Wedderburn.
Working with a dedicated team that includes a practising surgeon, attorney, IT specialist and former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, Bill has established the COVID Healthcare Workers’ Family Fund to raise funds for the relatives of those who’ve died fighting the virus.
For the fundraising initiative, Bill committed to walking 900km before his 90th birthday on 9 June 2022, clocking 100 kilometres for every decade of his life. For every kilometre missed, Bill said he’d pay R10 into the fund – and he’s encouraging other like-minded sponsors to support this cause. In support, Renishaw Property Developments contributed R10 for every kilometre Bill walked.
Speaking at the event, Bill reminded everyone about the reason behind this walk: “The funds will go to the families of healthcare workers who passed away from COVID-19, as many of those families have been left destitute with their breadwinner gone. The walk also aided me in recovering from my illness, and I really encourage everyone to get out there and exercise! I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed and to the Renishaw Hills community for your greetings and encouraging comments on my daily walks through the village. Those really kept me going. Although I’ve reached my goal six weeks early, I think I’ll continue going and try to reach 1,000km by my birthday!”