SA’s JackalBerry MTB Challenge: The charity ride that has changed the lives of its recipients and its riders

SA’s JackalBerry MTB Challenge:

The charity ride that has changed the lives of its recipients and its riders

 There are probably few MTB events in the world that started out as a dare among friends around a braai, that have gone on to attract the attention of high-calibre sponsors, and that exclusively benefit a disadvantaged school in helping to educate its children for a brighter future.

Yet this is exactly the route the two-day JackalBerry MTB Challenge has travelled since it was established in 2011 by friends Brendan Pearson of 4PL Group; Gareth Pearson of BMi Research; and Lloyd Anderson of Six Square Networks. It might not be the foundation of your conventional MTB event, but then the JackalBerry Challenge is anything but conventional!

First and foremost, the JackalBerry MTB Challenge from Bronkhorstspruit to Machadodorp is a fundraising ride, as opposed to a race, staged specifically to benefit the Ubuhle Christian School in Bronkhorstspruit. Its objective is to break the poverty cycle, and provide the children who attend the school with access to quality foundation education. Secondly, its participants are not competitors, but a group of fifty individuals all riding together in what is an intensely personal journey for this worthy cause.

“The JackalBerry Challenge is not about lots of riders competing against each other and racing to see who comes first. It’s about a small group of like-minded people peddling for a purpose,” explains Gareth Pearson, CEO of BMi Research. “Since 2012 we have collectively raised more than R850 000 for Ubuhle. Unlike traditional charity races where cheques are simply handed over and that’s the end of it, all proceeds from this event are paid directly to the school. And even then, it is not used for administrative costs, but rather allocated to the tangible items needed to ensure these children are educated and have an opportunity to improve their lives.”

Adds Brendan Pearson, 4PL Group CEO: “As 4PL, we are heavily involved in the local community around the Ubuhle Christian School, and so decided at the outset, it would be the sole beneficiary of funds raised from the challenge. It has been amazing to see the difference the event has made in the lives of these children, from actual classrooms and bathrooms being built, and furniture and educational materials purchased, to the quality of education they now have access to. Over and above this, the race has made a difference in our lives as the riders too. It’s a journey of self-discovery – a life-changing event in which you become emotionally invested. When you hit a wall tackling those big hills on the route, it’s the kids you think about; it’s their desperate situation that makes you push yourself that little bit harder to pull through, resulting in a profound sense of achievement.”

All the riders involved in the race have experienced this deep sense of responsibility and commitment to the Ubuhle children, which has even turned non-cyclists into avid riders, as they return each year to give more of themselves to this exceptional community initiative. In this way the ride has afforded participants a different sense of purpose, and imbued the event with passion, integrity, personal commitment and authentic fellowship.

Given its importance to the event, it’s only fitting that the JackalBerry Challenge kicks off at Ubuhle School in Bronkhorstspruit before heading out towards Middelburg on day one.

This part of the route spans 177km of some of South Africa’s finest countryside, as it winds its way towards the escarpment in Mpumalanga. There are two big climbs on the first leg – the Malkop Hotspot (distance 8.1km and ascent 196m) and after lunch at Loskop, the Freddie Kruger Hotspot (distance 10.4km and ascent 331m).

On day two the riders leave Middleburg early as they push on towards Machadodorp on the 103km-long second leg. Another two big climbs await riders here, firstly Pineapple Hotspot (distance 6.5km and ascent 274m) and after lunch at Belfast, the notorious Mount Everest (distance 2.1km and ascent of 120m). It’s this final hill that welcomes riders home as they enter JackalBerry Farm with its picturesque setting, perched high on the hills at the edge of the Drakensberg Escarpment.

“The route is challenging, but it’s made easier by the friends who ride alongside you. Because that’s really what your fellow participants are. Riders wait for each other, help friends up the big hills, and even pull them out the mud when things get sticky, like last year after the rains around Middelburg. We might all start out as strangers, but we cross the finish line with a sense of kinship that makes us feel like family,” says Lloyd Anderson, CEO of Six Square Networks, who adds that this sentiment is heightened by the presence of friends and family who ride in the backup convoy and provide additional support along the way.

Participation in the JackalBerry Challenge is by invitation only, and limited to 50 riders. The number of riders participating has steadily increased each year, from just a handful in 2011 to more than 40 in 2016. Each rider is responsible for raising their own funds for the school. In 2017, participants aim to raise an ambitious R350 000.

A second, spinoff event was introduced last year – the JackalBerry Extreme (JBX), which sees riders doing the same route as the main race in one day, instead of two. JBX will take place again this year, with participants aiming to double their funds raised for Ubuhle Christian School from R20 000 to R40 000.

The founding riders’ companies – 4PL Group, BMi Research and Six Square Networks – remain the primary sponsors of the event, with various secondary sponsors coming on board each year to sponsor the four big climbs, refreshment stations and rider goodie bags.

There are still opportunities for secondary sponsors who want to be part of this exceptional event in 2017.

For further information, please contact Lezaan Cilliers at BMi Research on, 011 615 7000 or 082 767 3047.

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ISSUED BY Protactic Strategic Communications
DATE 19 June 2017
CONTACT Morongwa Seabela or Lauren Anceriz
TELEPHONE 011 882 9272