Tier one sponsor, Bonitas Medical Fund, continues the Comrades Marathon tradition of community upliftment and social investment.
The Comrades Marathon, being run on June 4, is one of the world’s greatest ultra-marathons. In its 92 year history the race has been lauded not only for the camaraderie, endurance and triumph of human spirit, but also for the community involvement and giving back, with millions of Rands raised for good causes.
In 2017 this tradition continues with Bonitas working alongside the Community Chest, Pietermaritzburg on a job creation programme.
“As a proudly South African company that promotes accessible quality healthcare we feel this ultra-marathon is an ideal fit for us to talk about making good wellness choices while celebrating ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” explains Gerhard van Emmenis, Acting Principal Officer of Bonitas.
“In addition to the 20 000 runners who show true tenacity by participating in this race we also wanted to celebrate the positive impact people with disabilities have in our society. For this reason we commissioned the Pietermaritzburg Mental Health Society (PMB MHS), one of the 57 Community Chest Impact Partners, to produce 20 000 warm up vests and 2 000 shoe bags for the Comrades Marathon.”
According to Liza Dickson, Operations Manager of Community Chest Pietermaritzburg, one of the six Amabeadibeadi charities supported by the Comrades Marathon, the contract created employment opportunities and upskilling for 20 people.
“The positive impact of this job creation project was two-fold in that it not only provided the Mental Health Society with an income but also gave these special individuals the opportunity to broaden their skills. Three protective workshops, namely Buxton, MH Moosa and Inkahyezi organised themselves and their disabled attendees who, under supervision of the staff, completed the project.
“In fact, through the support of Bonitas, these 20 individuals were employed for two and a half months, culminating in improving their quality of life as well as those of their families.” Dickson reiterates.
Upon registration each runner will receive one of the 20 000 one size fits all, warm up vests designed for comfort and warmth on the start line. Made from soft, non-irritating, recycled plastic polymer (spund bond) fabric, which has excellent thermal properties, they are disposable and environmentally friendly.
Although many runners discard their warm up vests along the 90+km route, the clean up team will retrieve these during the sweep and donate them back to the Community Chest who will in turn re-distribute to a project in need.
The overall Bonitas sponsorship included hosting novice seminars countrywide to assist rookie Comrades runners get race ready for this unique challenge, as well as 12 national Comrades general training seminars and five breakfast seminars aimed specifically at women taking up this challenge.
Part of the goodie bag gifts for the 2 000 attendees included a running shoe bag – designed and manufactured by the PMB MHS – after all, no runner is ever without their running shoes!
“Our association with Bonitas is long standing,” says Chris Fisher, GM of the Comrades Marathon Association, “We are thrilled that they continue to support us in making this iconic sporting event the success it is but even more heart warming is their support of the Community Chest, one of the six identified charities. The spirit of the Comrades is about true grit, endurance and giving back with a large percentage of the runners involved in the ‘Race 4 Charity’ drive.”
Van Emmenis thanked the Community Chest and PMB MHS for their incredible work ethic and for delivering a quality product ahead of the deadline.
“It was a pleasure to work with this project that provides work skills training and therapy to around 350 intellectually-challenged individuals within the wider community of Pietermaritzburg. We know the runners will wear their vests with pride at the start of this year’s Comrades Marathon and the shoe bags will have longevity, travelling to many a road race.”