Tycoon Reddy uses birthday celebrations to spread cheer in the lives of impoverished children

2014-02-24 00:00

CONTRARY to the famous image of French queen Marie Antoinette scorning the plight of those without bread with a suggestion that they should simply eat cake, Durban tycoon Vivian Reddy hides hope for the poorest within the cake itself.

In recent years, the businessperson has used his birthday celebrations, held this year at the People’s Park at Moses Mabhida Stadium, to spread cheer among thousands of impoverished children, treating them to a day of food and fun. But the highlight of the day is the distribution of the cupcakes, with pink icing for girls and blue for boys.

Inside one of the cakes lies a token, an artificial diamond last year, which carries hope for the lucky child and his or her family.

Finding the token means that the child’s family will not have to fork out a cent further for his or her education, health or other needs.

This year’s lucky cupcake went to shy Umlazi girl Ayanda Mkhize (12).

She took a few bites of her cake before hitting the token, a chocolate coin, and her eyes widened at the realisation that her future was secure.

With icing smudged on her face, she acknowledged that she had been secretly hoping to find the token.

From now on, every aspect of Ayanda’s life will be covered, from education (including tertiary studies) to health, by the Vivian Reddy Foundation.

And the windfall could not have come at a better time.

Ayanda’s mother, Sphindile Mkhize (29), works as a chef at a hotel in Durban, but her contract ends this month, at the end of this week.

“It was a temporary job and I was getting worried, because I was saving money for her university studies,” Dlamini said, adding that a burden had been lifted off her shoulders.

Last year’s winner, Siseko Dlamini (12), says he has become part of Reddy’s rich family and his life will never be the same again.

His school fees have been paid, he has received treatment and special shoes for a spinal ailment, he receives a monthly allowance and his family, who live in a RDP house, receive groceries every month.

“Our life is much easier now than it was before. There were things I used to wish for but I couldn’t get because mom couldn’t afford them,” Siseko said.

He thinks the best thing that Reddy, who turned 61 this year, has done for him so far is taking care of his school fees.

“When I grow up, I’d like to study mechanical engineering, fix my mom’s house and buy myself a beautiful home, and hopefully follow in daddy’s footsteps,” he said.

Flanked by his actress wife Sorisha Naidoo, Reddy, the Edison Group founder, said the intention was to change a youngster’s life for the better.

“She [Ayanda] doesn’t know what’s in store for her. This child’s life will never be the same again.

“If she lives in a shack, we’ll build a house for her family. Her whole future is secured.”

Naidoo walked around holding Siseko’s hand, introducing him to people as her son. She said she was looking forward to having Ayanda as a daughter in her new world.

“I think I’ll now have a bigger soccer team than Angelina Jolie,” she joked.

Among those left ruing the missed opportunity was Jernice Joseph (11), from a school in Chatsworth. She said she had enjoyed the celebrations but was disappointed she was not as lucky as Ayanda.

“I was hoping that it was going to be me to find it [the token], but I’m happy for that someone that found it,” she said.

Alwande Sibisi, from Mahlabathini, said if she were in Ayanda’s shoes, she would have asked Reddy to build her and her family a big house. “I really feel bad that I didn’t discover the gem.”

Entertainment for the children included an inflatable disco, giant water slides, foam pit and zorb balls.

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