Posted by: Andries Louw | 16 November 2009

Cancer Cows cycle 94.7 on ice-cream bikes

Yesterday I rode the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge in Joburg along with 26 000 other cyclists making it one of the biggest races in the world. On the way I met these heroes, volunteers who are raising money for CHOC, Childhood Cancer Foundation South Africa. The videos were taken with my cell phone as I rode alongside them.

I was impressed by their commitment, their level of organisation, their numbers, over 100 volunteers who rode in cow suits or CHOC gear, as well as the number of sponsors involved. The ice-cream carts, pulled by two cyclists with tubes in front and pushed by another two from the back, were often overtaking other riders so they regularly had to shout “Keep left!” as can be seen in this video:

The combination of the cow suits, the ice-cream bikes, the bells and their sheer numbers ensured that the Cows’ presence was felt throughout the day. Spectators chucked bank notes into the ice-cream carts along the route but the serious fundraising is on-going on this website

As I was entering the inner-city of Joburg I spotted the first ice-cream caravan. Rob Riccardi who was doing the hard work on the one-gear ice-cream bike was one of the people who started the initiative last year. One of his friends had lost a child to cancer so he and some buddies decided to raise funds for CHOC.

They overshot their target which was to build a CHOC house near the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital so their next goal was to furnish the house and buy a bus. The CHOC Houses across South Africa are homes to children receiving daily treatment from the major hospitals so it becomes their home away from home.

Many of these kids come from poor rural families and often their parents can barely afford to get their children to hospital. The bus will make it easier for them to visit their children as they are suffering the terrible side-effects of chemo-therapy.

Being involved in fundraising for non-profit organisations myself, I was really inspired by these people. I was struck by three timeless principles I witnessed in action yesterday:

1) The power of a personal experience and a story to propel people into action for a cause.

2) The power of networking and relationships to achieve bigger goals than you can reach on your own. I rode with the herd for quite a while and whenever they stopped at watering points it was clear that there were lots of friendships and a true sense of camaraderie.

3) There was space for anybody to contribute, from spectators to supporters at watering points, to cyclists. Most of the volunteers were average or below-average cyclists. But there were also some Super Cows, top cyclists who first raced hard and then did the 97 km route all over again. Andre from Centurion (picture below) was the first Super Cow, pulling an ice-cream bike wearing a cow suit after he finished in an impressive 2 hrs 22 min. The winning time was 2 hrs 14 min.

Andre, the first Super Cow

In another post I would like to explore this theme a little more so watch this space. What fundraising experiences have you had? If you rode the 94.7 did you see the cows and what did you think?



  1. I was also quite impressed with the CHOC guys! In fact, I think I would like to be part of it next year.

    It might be a good idea to challenge people, too, in one’s church / faith community / whatever group one finds oneself in. Most people will not want to do the Cycle Challenge without same training before the time – and this can be a good time to socialize with them, WHILE doing something useful. (I.e., to my mind, not just simply another church group who “cares about fishing” or “likes 4×4’s”).

    And then, I’ll get them praying for rain / clouds, because it must have been SO hot in those cow suits!

  2. I think it shows how much people want to be involved in meaningful projects that help others. I think that people are not so much selfish as uninspired!

  3. Ola Ola,

    I am one of the organisors of the CHOC Cows – what we experienced this year was unreal! Its gives me hope that we found so many people and companies to participate in something that contributes to supporting children with Cancer.

    We started this to celebrate teh little life of Jess that touched so many people after she passed away – she had a SIGNIFICANT impact on all of us.

    I am finalising the recon, looks like we raised R2.3 million, but that stands in teh shadow of a mountain of hope that the herd of 130 cyclists created.

    I will post of of the experiences of people that took part in the event with us if you guys dont mind.

    JOIN US NEXT YEAR! It will impact your life!



  4. To Robbie, the team and all the Cows, your determination has been remarkable and so inspiring and I salute each and every-one of you.
    Well done.

    Bruce Wallis

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