Sunday 12th August saw over 50,000 Bidvest employees and their families uniting across three cities on what was a memorable day, as they walked for wheelchairs. The Bidvest Unity Walk 2012 is the most successful charity event organised by The Bidvest Group, and undoubtedly the largest corporate charity walk in the world.
For the first time ever this year, participants met in one of three cities: Cape Town, Durban or Johannesburg, with the walk commencing simultaneously at 08:00. This year’s walk was expected to draw in excess of 30,000 employees and their family members, but the response has surprised Bidvest itself, with over 50,400 people participating. In 2011, approximately 25,000 Bidvest employees and their family members took part in the walk in Johannesburg, earning Bidvest the world record for the largest charity walk for one corporate group.
Bidvest employees were responding to the call to walk for those who can’t – with the challenge being issued by Bidvest that, for every 75 staff members who participate, one wheelchair will be donated to those in need. Of the over 50,400 people who participated, 15,739 were staff – which resulted in the donation of 210 wheelchairs to mobility-impaired people in rural areas. An additional seven wheelchairs were donated through the participation of caring journalists who heeded the media challenge issued by Bidvest. A total of 217 people’s lives stand to be changed for the better through the goodwill and charitable nature of Bidvest people.
Originally held with the aim of creating goodwill amongst employees, the Bidvest Unity Walk was held for the third time this year – for the first time with a specific purpose. Brian Joffe, Chief Executive of The Bidvest Group, said, "Bidvest’s past corporate social responsibility initiatives have been aimed at a variety of causes, from education to hunger to hearing, but all have a common philosophy. We believe in empowering people, building relationships and improving lives. This year, we have chosen to walk for those who can’t because we believe that providing a wheelchair gives people the means to improve their lives, but that’s just the first step. We hope to empower people by providing them with the means to gain easier access to education, training and skills and ultimately employment. Due to their lack of mobility, disabled South Africans have far greater difficulty finding employment. Hopefully, through this Walk, we are able to make a real difference"
The donations by Bidvest will be made through QASA (QuadPara Association of South Africa). Ari Seirlis, CEO of QASA, says, "Through the donation of these wheelchairs, Bidvest will provide mobility, independence and integration opportunities for people who have impaired mobility – and wheelchairs are a strong step forward in giving the mobility." He adds that wheelchairs provide independence in an accessible environment so that mobility-impaired people can be gainfully employed. The beneficiaries of the Bidvest Unity Walk will specifically be people from disadvantaged communities, in rural areas, who need wheelchairs and cannot afford them.
Three mobility-impaired ambassadors from QASA participated in the Bidvest Unity Walk to lend their support to the initiative, namely Cedric Mkhize in Durban, a former Sharks rugby player; Anthony Ghillino in Cape Town, a high level quad as a result of motor vehicle crash; and Ari Seirlis in Johannesburg.
Joffe concludes, "The Bidvest Unity Walk will touch so many people and has strengthened relationships as Bidvest employees walked together for one purpose. This event is a highlight on our corporate calendar – it brings the diverse companies within our group together – but the real meaning has come firstly from appreciating the fact that we have the ability to walk when so many thousands of our fellow South Africans don’t, and secondly, from the certainty that we are doing something that will make a radical difference in many, many lives."