Changing lives, one blanket at a time
- National Event
In a 2018 study on temperature related deaths in South Africa between 1997 and 2014, it was found that 3.5% of recorded deaths in South Africa could be related to exposure to cold. That means that an average of 17,000 people die every year because they were simply not able to sustain their own body heat during the cold winter. Add to this, the multitudes of people that suffer through our winters with the negative impacts of moderate to severe hypothermia and winter is a pretty miserable time for a lot of people.
Providing those at risk some measure of protection and alleviating their suffering must be a good and noble cause right? Sure we are not addressing the global issue but it is a practical approach to doing what we can to help.
Annual KiDs blanket run
The KiDs blanket run is organised every year by the Johannesburg H.O.G. Chapter.
Together with the support of all the other H.O.G.® Chapters close enough to participate and long standing sponsors of the event, Harley-Davidson® Dealership Johannesburg, Hard Rock Café, Mix FM, Emer-G-Med and CSX Customer Services – we try collect as many blankets as we can and distribute them to organisations who assist at risk children, families and animals.
This year, cold weather during the week running up to the event in early May, brought the reality of an icy winter to forefront of everyone’s mind. As the cold crisp morning dawned, Officers and volunteers from the chapter were already busy making arrangements for the start of the mass ride and from 7:00 am onward bikes started to line up outside the Johannesburg Harley-Davidson Dealership for the start of the 2018 KiDs blanket run.
Being supportive during previous years, law enforcement officials were on hand to assist with the safety of the ride, Emer-G-med medical response vehicles and staff was on duty to provide immediate care in the event of an incident. The staff from the Johannesburg Dealership had all come in early to ensure that riders had access to facilities on the day assisting with activities related to the event on the morning.
Customary, a wide selection of riding groups and organisations came through to support the ride and help show Johannesburg how big bikers hearts are. While there are always a large number of Harley® owners at the event, it is open to all road legal motorcycles and the variety of rides that turned out on Sunday 20 May was amazing. Media partner, Mix FM which always assists with getting word out and promoting the event with air time were ready to provide a helping hand and cover the event, while their team set up their outside broadcast facility at the end point of the ride.
Marshals from the various H.O.G.® Chapters had arrived through the course of the morning and a final pre ride briefing was held to ensure smooth execution and understanding of the planned course of action for the day. A riders briefing followed before Konrad de Beer (Head Road Captain – Johannesburg H.O.G.) gave the signal and hundreds of bikes started their engines, ready for the ride.
Promptly at 9:30 assisted by Gauteng Traffic department, the Marshal team under direction of Konrad headed out and Pieter de Koning (Assistant Director & event organiser for Johannesburg H.O.G.) lead the pack out into the morning light.
Hundreds of bikes poured out onto the road and formed an amazingly long pack formation as the ride headed north out of Sandton, before heading out to the east of Johannesburg and then north to Pretoria and Menlyn Shopping Centre.
Traditionally the event has ended in Johannesburg but after consultation with event sponsors and organisers post the 2017 event, a new location was needed to alleviate some of the space issues experienced during previous events. Menlyn Shopping Centre were happy to assist and together with Hard Rock Café – Pretoria organised parking, access, food and drinks and staging for the event end point.
As the pack of 650 bikes headed north on the highway, the marshal team and Metro Police teams, ably assisted by Emer-G-Med kept the pack safe and provided clear access throughout the ridden route.
Almost too soon, the pack was departing the freeway and started filing into Menlyn Shopping Centre to join the already waiting 350 motorcycles in waiting. Long lines of bikers stood patiently to enter the event, all providing the mandatory entry fee of at least one blanket to be donated to charity, with many bikers and attendees opting to provide more than just one blanket for the cause.
Hard Rock Café was buzzing as the riders settled in for a day of entertainment with great live music from Miss Heidi & The Bar Room Bandits, Cindy Alter, Dirty Moonshine and the Dixie Hillbillies.
At the end of the day, 2950 blankets were collected which were packed up and carted off to the Pretoria Harley-Davidson Dealership with the assistance of the Pretoria H.O.G. Chapter. That’s 2950 people and animals that this year will have a slightly better time through winter and just perhaps in amongst those 2950 blankets a couple may save the lives of those who might have become a statistic of death by hypothermia.
To everyone that turned up and rode with us, to everyone that helped, pitched in and assisted, to all the companies and organisations that help make the KiDs blanket run possible and to Pieter and the dedicated team of people who work unselfishly hard every year to make this event the success it is. A heartfelt thank You. And to our participating Chapters, H.O.G. Gold Rand, Clearwater and Pretoria - we received fantastic support from all the Members.
How do you change the world? The saying goes – One act of kindness at a time. To the bikers of Gauteng, thank You for your kindness and see you in 2019.
- Article submission: Dean Addison
- Editor: Angelique Dermit