The SPAR River Mile will be going the extra mile to clean up the environment and help local charities when the event takes place at Cannonville near Port Elizabeth this coming weekend.
The 91st edition of South Africa’s oldest open-water swim will once again take place on the Sundays River instead of its traditional home at Redhouse because of raw sewage pollution in the Swartkops River.
Title sponsor SPAR Eastern Cape has contributed R80 000 annually for the past three years to help address the challenges and assist in the clean-up of the river.
Despite the enforced relocation of the event, SPAR Eastern Cape marketing manager Abri Swart confirmed that the retailer would continue to be part of the solution going forward.
“Our commitment will be ongoing until we can return the Swartkops to its former glory.”
Swart said SPAR was working in conjunction with the Zwartkops Conservancy to identify the areas of greatest need and where the financial assistance could best be utilised.
“Clean water is one of the most basic needs and a major contributor to improved quality of life for the communities along the river.
“SPAR as a market leader in our sector needs to show leadership, meet the great need in our province and give back to the communities we serve.”
As far as the Sundays River was concerned, there were no health concerns for the more than 1 600 expected swimmers, he said.
“We’ll have a team of cleaners working before, during and after the event to keep the venue clean and ensure that any pollution is kept to an absolute minimum.”
On the charity side of things, event organiser Michael Zoetmulder said funds from swimmers’ entry fees would contribute towards cleft pallet surgery for children with facial deformities.
“We also have a ‘swim a mile for a smile’ campaign, where individual swimmers can be sponsored to raise additional funds for the Smile Foundation and Cleft Friends.”
Zoetmulder said the event had partnered with the Back-A-Buddy website, where the public could pledge donations to the foundation on behalf of their friends and family taking part.
“In addition, the Rotary Club of Port Elizabeth Sunrise will be managing the kids’ zone, fruit stall and Castle Lite beer garden, with proceeds going towards their local community projects.”
He said the local Sundays River Dutch Reformed Church would also host five vendor stands to raise funds for their community outreach programmes.
To help someone swim for smiles, visit www.backabuddy.co.za and find the SPAR River Mile group under champions.
Festival gates open at 8am on Saturday and Sunday. Entry into the race village costs R20 per person, while children under 10 are free.
Visit www.rivermile.co.za, find SPAR River Mile Festival on Facebook or follow @SPAR_EC.