Chantel brings magic of Christmas to 250 kids every year
Local Hero nominee Chantel Walker, 45, from Amalinda, swaps sleighs for motorbikes to deliver Christmas cheer to children from Buffalo City Metro.
Walker spends the year gathering donations and organising the East London Bikers’ Toy Run, a day of gifts, games and treats for 250 underprivileged children aged 0 to 13 at the Hamilton Sports Club in Selborne on the last Sunday of November.
“It’s one hell of a party,” Walker said.
Walker joined the East London Bikers’ Toy Run in 1996 but took over managing the NPO in 2016.
“Father Christmas rides in on a fire engine with 600 bike riders who decorate their bikes with teddy bears. My husband decorates his bakkie with toys and teddies to collect second-hand donations on the day.”
The mass of motorcyclists ride from the Esplanade , Quigney, and on the M4 to the decked-out Hamilton Hall.
“It’s like a carnival. Father Christmas sits on a big throne and hands out gifts. We play games using water pistols and spinning a wheel, there is face painting, a nail bar and a temporary tattoo parlour. A DJ plays music and kids can win extra prizes of second-hand toys.”
Walker sources donations for the event and every child receives a brand-new toy, toiletries, school stationery and a food parcel.
It's the biggest blessing just to see what an amazing difference it makes in a child’s life, to watch girls as old as 13 cry because they don’t know what it’s like to get a present
“It's the biggest blessing just to see what an amazing difference it makes in a child’s life, to watch girls as old as 13 cry because they don’t know what it’s like to get a present.”
The main challenge, Walker said, were finances and sourcing donations.
“Personally, I source donated plants and sell them throughout the year to pay for the stationery and toiletries. I do it because I love it.”
Walker works with a team of five throughout the year to source gifts, food donations for the grand meal on the day and supplies.
Daughter Sabre Walker, 22, said it took three weeks and more than 400m of paper to wrap all 250 presents with her sister-in-law.
Each gift was individually wrapped with a personalised tag stating the name, age and gender of the receiver.
“I can’t even tell you how much paper we use — it seems like the size of a rugby field. To wrap 50 soccer balls with toiletries and stationery all in one ... you cannot imagine.”
Sabre said there had not been a Toy Run during the pandemic, but the NPO had donated Easter eggs to the Frere children’s hospital.
Schoolteacher Nocawe Mjoni has been contacted by Walker to chaperone children to and from the party since 2013.
“I bring the needy children from different churches, from Mdantsane and Duncan Village and Scenery Park. The Toy Run is so good because it’s bringing them joy. Some of them are motherless or come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Toy Run gives me the opportunity to spread love.”
Mjoni said she was speechless and couldn’t explain how beneficial Walker had been to the project.
“Chantel is so caring, so loving and so dedicated to her work, she is a superstar! We work for the benefit of the kids. Every year there is something different.”
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