Every cent of the R150 000 raised by the 28th SPAR Eastern Cape Charity Golf Day will be used to benefit the children of Nelson Mandela Bay.
That is the pledge from the Smile Foundation, the beneficiary of the annual fundraiser held at the Port Elizabeth Golf Club on Thursday.
Under balmy skies at the Bay’s famous old course, teams drove, chipped and putted their way to the clubhouse, where beaming Smile Foundation CEO Kim Robertson Smith gratefully accepted the cheque that will soon make a huge difference in the lives of local children.
Started in 1995, the event has been staged at various clubs around the city, including Uitenhage, Humewood and now “The Hill”.
Over the years the format has changed from a morning and afternoon field to a single one of 30 4-balls.
The day is all about sharing, caring and celebrating the beneficiary – and the Smile Foundation certainly had much to celebrate itself.
“We are going to use the money here in Gqeberha to assist us with our Smile Week later this year, so it’s all going to come back into this community,” said Robertson Smith.
Smile Week is one of the Foundation’s most high-profile programmes.
The organisation was started 23 years ago by former president Nelson Mandela to help children born with cleft lips and palates.
Among its numerous services, it provides parents with special cleft bottles that help children born without a sucking capability to feed. Milk from these devices is simply squeezed down the child’s throat.
Another programme is Cleft Friends – parent groups that walk the journey with children and their parents to ensure the little ones are placed on a surgery list.
“The sooner we get the surgery done the better. This is ideally in the first three months,” said Robertson Smith.
While in hospital, children and parents are given toothpaste, toothbrushes, wet wipes and nappies to ensure their dignity.
Children are supported by a full medical team, including nurses, doctors, anaesthetists, speech therapists, psychologists and dieticians.
“In the last year, we have assisted a thousand children, which means a thousand families. It has made a difference to a thousand kids going to school and not being teased or bullied.”
The Smile Foundation is also placing a stronger focus on its skills transfer programme.
“Dr Chris van der Walt is the plastic surgeon at PE Provincial Hospital. At the moment he is training doctors from Frere Hospital in East London and other areas to actually do cleft, lip and palate surgery,” said Robertson Smith.
“This means it’s not just the kids who are benefiting, but the doctors too due to the skills transfer and education.
“To have doctors who can learn here and then go into the rural areas and do the surgeries there will make a huge difference because a lot of these kids have to travel really far to get to a main tertiary hospital.”
Robertson Smith, who took the reins of the NPO 19 months ago, described the partnership with SPAR EC as a “match made in heaven” given the retailer’s own All for Smiles campaign.
“When I started seeing the SPAR campaigns coming up with the smiles I asked, ‘How do we become part of this?’. I didn’t quite know who to speak to or what to do.
“So, when the golf day came about, our hospital coordinator Tanya Jackson was able to speak to people here in PE and get us to become part of this collaboration.
“I was blown away. We couldn’t be more grateful to SPAR for their partnership.”
SPAR EC advertising manager Roseann Shadrach agreed that SPAR’s campaign tied in beautifully with the NPO.
“We have supported the Foundation over the years, but never as the golf day beneficiary.
“They enable children to smile again, to be part of the community and to face the day with confidence. Hopefully, via this link, we can assist and help everyone to smile just a little more.”