Groups of bikers joined forces to help a sick Roodepoort man tick one of his biggest dreams off his bucket list.
There is often a negative stigma associated with leather-clad, tattoo-bearing biker groups, but few people see the wonderful work that a lot of these motorcycle clubs (MCCs) do in their communities.
Three chapters from the Sons of Joburg MCC were joined by Amigos MCC and Crusaders MCC to give a dying man an exhilarating experience. Fillipus van der Merwe is living with malignant melanoma, spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA), diabetes and epilepsy, and his health is rapidly deteriorating.
One of his ultimate dreams was for him to feel the adrenaline rush of riding a motorcycle, and his daughter Carmen was determined to help make his dream come true. Carmen spent a portion of her childhood living at St Laurence’s Children’s Haven in Discovery, and grew very close with the foundation’s owners, Richard and Tilly Malan.
The Malans are dedicated members of the Sons of Joburg West Rand MCC and were more than willing to help someone they considered family. They called up their chapter, who called a few more, who then called other MCCs, and plans were set in motion to make Fillipus’ wish come true.
The initial plan was to have Fillipus ride on the back of Richard’s bike, but the bikers were concerned that his epilepsy may be a safety risk. Luis De Souza from Amigos MCC stepped forward and offered to take Fillipus for the ride on the back of his trike, which would be a lot more stable and safe should something have gone wrong. On the morning of 13 September, after making sure that all precautions were in place, a convoy of 27 bikes left the St Laurence’s premises in Discovery on a high-speed trip to the Road House in Hartbeespoort for a breakfast fit for a champion.
The Sons of Joburg National President, André Smith, led the convoy and it seemed nearly impossible for Fillipus to stop smiling. He just couldn’t believe what had been done for him, and he never wanted it to end. “We asked if he wanted to cage back [ride by car], but he said he wanted to go back on the trike,” said Richard. Despite the misconceptions about bikers, groups like these have proved that you cannot judge a book by its cover.
“Motorcycle clubs in general do a lot of charity work. Our aim is always to try to make people’s dreams come true if we can,” Richard continued. The bikers said that the highlight of the day was doing what they love best; riding in unison down the open road with the wind on their faces.
“Nothing beats the satisfaction of seeing the smile on Fillipus’ face and knowing we made a difference,” Richard concluded.