Dr Alexander Zühlke stands in the halls of the Tygerberg Hospital, there is not a mountain bike in sight, but when the Glacier Storms River Traverse begins hundreds of kilometres away on Friday 10 August, Dr Zühlke and the many teams riding in this three-day stage race on the Garden Route will be united by a common cause – to bring a smile to the faces of children who need it most.
In 2016, the Glacier Storms River Traverse became the first in the growing stable of nationwide mountain biking and trail running events run by Dryland Event Management to adopt The Smile Foundation as its official charity.
Since then it has helped to raise thousands of rands to help the work of The Smile Foundation in providing corrective surgery on children born with facial disorders.
Dr Zühlke performs many of these surgeries himself. And he can bear witness to the fact that the smile on many of the riders taking part in probably the leading family-friendly mountain bike stage race in the country is nothing compared to the smiles it’s helping to put on the faces of these children.
“It makes a huge difference to see a child with a cleft lip and palette, and to then see the difference after the operation and the impact it also makes on the whole family. Often the family cannot believe how it’s possible and their whole outlook changes. That child has a better start in life again,” he says.
“Every single time after a surgery I feel I’ve made a difference. Each operation is a new challenge for me and I’m always very happy if everything goes according to how I want it to be. I love working on children because they are phenomenal in terms of recovery. Their turnaround time and healing power is phenomenal.”
In a sense, Dr Zühlke approaches his job with much the same expectations any aspirant mountain biker has going into a race.
“Plastic surgeons are always trying to be perfectionists and you’re critical of yourself so you are never 100% happy and always strive to be better. Though I qualified as a plastic surgeon almost 17 years ago, I’m still learning and trying to get better.”
For Hedley Lewis, CEO of The Smile Foundation, the support of the Glacier Storms River Traverse riders echoes the widespread support the organisation receives from many of South Africa’s major sports events.
“We are really privileged to get a lot of support from extraordinary individuals. It’s about changing children’s lives and it’s about so many partners who do this with us every single day.”
And for Henco Rademeyer, Co-founder and Managing Director of Dryland Event Management, the family-friendly focus of the Glacier Storms River Traverse made it the perfect event to launch their support of The Smile Foundation.
“We’re proud to be associated with a charity like The Smile Foundation which so positively impacts the lives of South African children. As Dryland we felt that the Glacier Storms River Traverse was the perfect event for this partnership as it’s a lifestyle event with a strong social and environmentally conscious focus. These initiatives are also strongly supported by event sponsor Glacier by Sanlam, as they have a strong corporate social responsibility ethos.”
From 10-12 August, the trails around the Tsitsikamma Village will host this three-day mountain bike stage race. The daily distances vary between a highly manageable 40-60 kilometres and the routes include just enough mud to keep things interesting as well as beautiful forest sections and spectacular sea views with sections right alongside the ocean at the famous Storms River Mouth.
Children are catered for at the race village at the Tsitsikamma Village Inn with meals and day care while their parents are out cycling.
For more information visit https://www.stormsrivertraverse.co.za/