Doing it for Downs
Up before sunrise and managing at least two training sessions every day, East London local Chad Wakeford plans to complete the Ironman South African Tour Series this year.
And he's doing it all for Downs.
The sales consultant decided to take on the challenge in aid of the Amathole Down Syndrome Association and hopes to raise much needed funds for the organisation through his Doing it for Downs BackaBuddy online crowdfunding platform.
“Last year I competed in the Buffalo City Ironman 70.3 and from that experience I wanted more, I wanted to find out what my body is capable of so I entered the African Tour Series.
“And then I realised I could give back to the community and support an organisation that is very close to my heart at the same time,” said Wakeford, 28, who has a close family member who has Down syndrome.
“I have a cousin in Johannesburg that has Downs, and he has impacted and touched my life in ways I could never describe. Personally I never knew we had an association in East London for Downs, so once I heard there was one, I jumped at the opportunity of helping financially where possible,” Wakeford explained.
“It gives me even more determination and drive to train and race as I'm not just doing it for me any more.”
Completing the Buffalo City Ironman 70.3 in January, Wakeford's next challenge is the Ironman Africa Championships in Port Elizabeth at the end of the month.
He will end off the series with the Ironman 70.3 in Durban in June.
“The next race starts off with a 3.8km sea swim, followed by a 180km cycle and then, to finish it off, a 42.2km marathon,” Wakeford said.
“My training schedule is jam-packed. During the week I will do two sessions a day, then weekends we do our long training rides and runs.”
He said the most challenging part of the ongoing training was not having much time left for anything else.
“Early to bed in the evenings to be up before the sun takes its toll on the social life, but I have a very understanding and supportive friend base that encourages me to get the training done as the rewards will be worth it," said Wakeford.
Amathole Down Syndrome Association chair Linda Davis said Wakeford's efforts were a much needed boost for the association.
“Our association is mainly for disadvantaged families. We are always battling with fundraising as people don't perceive Down syndrome as a life-threatening disease and are inclined to support other organisations before ours. We were thrilled when Chad approached us,” said Davis.
She said the organisation aimed to teach young adults with Down syndrome various skills while also allowing them to get together and share their challenges and joys.
“We have young adults sitting at home because companies are not prepared to employ them. It is these young people we try to assist the most. As the families are financially strapped we pay for their transport to events as well as the training. We also counsel new parents and train them in early intervention,” Davis said.
“We are hoping the community will get behind Chad [Wakeford] and donate. We are hoping that the platform will contribute more awareness and less stigma concerning Down syndrome.”
Wakeford said all funds donated through his crowdfunding platform are paid into the association's account every two weeks. He hopes to donate R20,000 by the end of the tour series.
“The Down Syndrome Association don't get all the outside financial help they need as many are unaware that it exists. As much as this campaign is about raising funds, its also about raising awareness of an organisation doing amazing things for some of the most loving and caring people I've ever met,” said Wakeford.