Dean Wight is a sales representative for global sports brand, Asics, in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. Dean started running in 1979 when he was only 11 years old. This week Dean turned 50, and he is still passionate about road running. He is also helping other runners in KwaZulu-Natal achieve their goals, and over the past three years, used his love for running to raise large sums of money for local charities.
In January 2016, Dean created Beloved Long Runs, an informal long run group that hosts runs all over KwaZulu-Natal. It aims to create community amongst runners and clubs while helping runners achieve their goals running in a safer environment. What started off as a small group of runners has grown into a sizeable running community, with more than 4 000 members in its Facebook group.
Runners contribute a small “entry fee” for refreshments and logistics during the runs, and once costs are covered, the rest goes to charity. Dean also puts out a “donations box” for any runners that may want to give more, and during 2016 and 2017, his efforts raised R70 000 for various local charities in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust (HACT) is one of the six official charities of the Comrades Marathon, and in early 2018 approached Dean to become a running ambassador for the Centre. Dean thought this was an opportunity for the Beloved Long Runs to partner with HACT, and achieve a more ambitious fundraising target.
Founded almost 30 years ago, HACT provides love and hope to people both infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. HACT predominantly works in the rural Valley of 1000 Hills region, an area considered one of the epicentre’s of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic with over 40% of the population currently infected.
HACT’s dedicated team provides medical care and treatment to children and adults who have HIV/AIDS, conducts life-saving HIV prevention and education programmes in rural schools, supports vulnerable groups such as grandmothers caring for their orphaned grandchildren, and provides inspiring economic empowerment and skills development opportunities to help lift local families out of poverty.
Dean says his association with HACT just felt right from the day he met the staff and witnessed what they were doing. This inspired him to do more each day and raise money for them.
He set an initial fundraising target of R10 00, which increased to R100 000, and when a childhood friend said she would double the money if this target was reached, it increased to R250 000 and finally, R300 000.
“Where I organise training runs across Durban and surrounding areas, at every run I had a cardboard box for runners to put donations in towards HACT. I also organised a few runs from the centre, where all the proceeds from these runs went towards my charity drive, and subsequently runners who are business owners donated via their companies. Running clubs also donated, and my biggest donation came from a childhood friend who is also a runner. She donated R100K, so in a nutshell, I made my money from runners supporting runners, and a cardboard box on a pavement at 4.30am in the morning.”
Dean completed his 27th Comrades Marathon on 10 June 2018, and when the 2018 Comrades Race for Charity campaign officially closed a few weeks later, he raised a total of R327 000 for HACT, making him the top fundraiser of this year’s race. A remarkable achievement.
All funds raised through HACT’s 2018 Comrades campaign, including the R327 000 raised by Dean, will go directly towards HACT’s two flagship projects, namely the Respite Unit and the Gogo (Granny) Support Groups programme.
HACT’s Respite Unit is currently the only facility of its kind providing free, 24-hour, in-patient care to impoverished adults and children who have end-stage AIDS and opportunistic infections such as TB or cancer. At present, 7 out of every 10 patients admitted to the Unit recover to the point they can return home to their families. HACT’s Gogo (Granny) Support Groups programme educates, empowers and uplifts gogos (grandmothers) living in the Valley of 1000 Hills region who are caring for one or more of their orphaned grandchildren. The programme currently supports a network of 2 000 gogos and 58 support groups across 8 communities.
Dean’s advice for people who would like to use their participation in sporting activities in support of worthy causes is to take the time to get to know the organisation you are planning to support and understand their work. This will not only help you with your fundraising efforts, but will make the experience more meaningful and rewarding for yourself, and your friends, family and colleagues who support you. Do your homework and ensure that the organisation is legitimate and properly registered, and ask to see copies of its annual reports and audited financial statements, and visit their projects to see their work in action.
Looking ahead, Dean will continue to use his weekly long runs to raise money for local charities in KwaZulu-Natal until he embarks on his next Comrades for HACT campaign which starts in September 2018.