9 February 2023 – Intrepid swimmers taking on the aQuellé Midmar Mile’s Charity Challenge dived into action at the KwaZulu-Natal dam today.
The hugely popular race has raised millions of rand for charity over the years, but one woman has been particularly prolific in adding to that significant total.
Cape Town swimmer Joanne Barnard has raised over R600,000 in the last 10 years. Having participated in the world’s largest open-water swimming event just for fun for the first time in 2009, Barnard decided to start fundraising in 2014. She chose to focus her efforts on childhood cancer foundation CHOC, one of the official charities of the aQuellé Midmar Mile. The foundation’s mission is to save lives through early detection, and it provides comprehensive support programmes for families affected by cancer.
“The amount that I’ve managed to raise since 2014, including this year, will be just on R610,000. I’m probably going to be able to push it to R620,000 so it’s been quite amazing. It’s been a real, real journey,” explained Barnard, who is taking part in the 8-Mile Charity Challenge once again this year. That means crossing the famous KwaZulu-Natal dam four times on day one and another four times the following day.
Barnard’s target for this year is R130,000 and she has already raised by far the most of any swimmer taking part in this year’s aQuellé Midmar Mile.
Asked how she manages to raise so much each year, Barnard explained: “I have my own accounting business so I have quite a nice database of clients and what I do is I harass them and I send them mails and I send them letters and ask for money.
“I obviously give them the whole background of CHOC and the importance of the charity. I think that I can put my success down to the fact that I’ve made them aware of it. Any stories that come through about CHOC I share with them, and having a good relationship with my clients also helps. In the beginning I used to be quite shy to ask for money and now in my 10th year if they are slightly unsure, I just keep on pushing and telling them it’s for the sick children, so they need to help.”
Barnard said knowing the money is going to such a meaningful cause means she never struggles with finding the motivation to keep fundraising.
“In the last few years what happens is that when we get our CHOC bags with our costumes and everything, what they do is the children actually write us a little note and they address it to you. Then they will say – thank you so much for doing this for us. And that in itself is such a huge motivation.
“For me, I have my health and I know that there are so many children that are ill and their families get torn apart. So that just motivates me to keep going and to raise the funds and I know that every single cent actually goes towards helping these children and their families.”
As for her advice to those who may still be deciding whether or not to take part in the 50th aQuellé Midmar Mile this weekend, Barnard reckoned: “If you enjoy swimming and you love the water, just do it. Just get in there, and join in.
“It is the most unbelievable experience that you will have. Thousands of people getting in the water and not everyone swims it to win it… Join us and come and have some fun. It’s going to be an awesome year.”
The 50th aQuellé Midmar Mile takes place from 9-12 February 2023 at Midmar Dam in KwaZulu-Natal, with the 8- and 16-Mile Charity Challenge being swum on 9 and 10 February and the main events on 11 and 12 February. Online entries are now closed. Those still wishing to swim can enter on the day at the dam but should arrive two hours before their race. For more details, head to www.midmarmile.co.za