Top athlete aims to bring joy of sport to needy kids

2011-05-27 00:00

COMRADES gold medallist Shaun Meiklejohn will be making this year’s up run in an attempt to bring the joy of running to children in Sweetwaters.

Working with a charity organisation, iThemba Projects, Meiklejohn hopes to raise funds to start up a full-time running club in the community.

“They do a lot of good work in Sweetwaters,” said Meiklejohn of the iThemba Project, which he was introduced to through the Hilton Baptist Church.

“They give the kids something to do after school, as well as the health and discipline benefits of running,”

iThemba Projects realised that underprivileged schools often do not have sports programmes, which give children a constructive way to release energy and develop physically and socially.

Likewise, for many Sweetwaters children there are no after-school activities, so iThemba decided to start a running club for the schools there.

A much smaller version of the proposed club was started in 2010, and iThemba found that the weekly training sessions brought in as many as 150 runners.

Programme co-ordinator Sam Walker said, “We were able to take a small group of participants to the KZN midlands inter-schools cross-country events with amazing success. Thobeka Zungu won the junior girls overall event [six races] and Sphe Mwelase achieved third place in the senior boys overall event.”

The club partners with Siyanda and Mashaka schools, and the hope is that the runners from Sweetwaters will be able to join the Willie Mtolo Running Club as they progress.

This year Meiklejohn aims to raise R20 000, which will go to resources needed by the club, such as supplements and clothing.

He also helps out with occasional training sessions.

Meiklejohn has competed in over 20 Comrades Marathons and has won 10 gold medals.

He won the race in 1995 in a time of just over five-and-a-half hours.

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