South Africans part of world’s largest annual fundraising event
Among more than 35,000 runners participating in the annual Virgin London Marathon on Sunday were a handful of South Africans; having raised more nearly R350,000 for charity as part of the world’s largest annual fundraising event. One stand-out runner, Franciska (Fran) Venter, completed the race after training during treatment for cancer in her brain, lung and liver.
“This is a dream come true and a highlight of my life,” said Fran. “I am on top of the world and so pleased that my efforts will make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than myself.”
Virgin Unite – the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group – was given 100 entries to the race by Virgin Money, the key sponsor of the Virgin London Marathon, for Virgin staff worldwide with the challenge to each raise at least R110 000. In South Africa, Fran took up the offer, together with Steve Bailey and Andre Ellis of Virgin Mobile. Fran individually raised R 62 000, with funds matched by her employer Virgin Active South Africa.
Fran’s charity, Ma Afrika Tikkun – www.maafrikatikkun.org.za – supports and cares for vulnerable children and orphans in townships across South Africa. With Nelson Mandela as its chief patron, that charity is tackling the enormous challenge of more than 2.5 million children forced into being the heads of their household because HIV/AIDS and other diseases have incapacitated or killed their parents.
“Fran is a miracle runner and an inspiration to all Virgin staff,” commented Fiona Ross, Virgin SA Head of Brand. “The Virgin London Marathon is an incredible event and it is a remarkable achievement from a woman who was once told that she would never run again.”
Funds raised by Steve Bailey (R 175 000) and Andre Ellis (R 55 000) will to go the SOS Children’s Village and The Nelson Mandela Children’s Foundation, respectively.
Last year alone the Virgin London Marathon raised £50.6 million pounds – including £1.9 million from Virgin Unite – with all proceeds going directly to charity. For more information on the Virgin London Marathon, visit www.virginlondonmarathon.com