These 4 Guys Cycled Over 2200km To Raise Dementia Awareness

Their adventurous and selfless spirit is something that we at MH are proud of.


Megan Flemmit |

“Living with someone who has dementia is incredibly hard,” says dairy farmer Struan Anderson. “When you’re nursing someone who has injured themselves, they’re still able to explain to you what’s wrong. With someone diagnosed with Dementia, they begin to lose touch of reality and often become frustrated and angry, making it difficult to care for them.”

After Struan’s grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 1999, the Anderson family turned their family farm into a care facility that specialises in nursing those diagnosed with Dementia. The care facility, named A Place In The Country, was her home until she passed on in 2001. Over a decade later, Struan’s father, Jonathan Anderson, was diagnosed with a different form of Dementia.

Watching his father deteriorate was tough for Struan and his brother Lyle. “It’s so difficult to watch someone you love slowly forget who you are,” says Struan. “When your own father fights with you because he can no longer recognise who you are…it just breaks your heart.”

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Last year, Jonathan passed away at the age of 65. Shortly after his death, Struan and Lyle discussed ways to pay tribute to his memory. After much discussion they decided to cycle from Beitbridge, a small town that forms the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa, to Cape Town. By riding more than 2200km, they wished to not only honour his memory, but also raise awareness around Dementia. They hoped to raise R200 000.

After speaking to Alzheimer’s SA, they decided the money would go towards training caregivers who would nurse those with Dementia. “Many people in rural or poorer areas don’t know what Dementia is,” says Struan. “Some believe it’s witchcraft or evil spirits and as a result mishandle their relatives.” Alzheimers SA trains caregivers to go into these communities. The caregivers are able to spot the signs of Dementia and help people take care of their loved ones. With this in mind they started planning the Border2Beach Psycle Tour.

Riding for A Cause

While Struan is an avid cyclist having completed the Sani2Sea, Wines2Whales as well as the Ironman 70.3, Lyle was not. He had not ridden a bike since his BMX days as a kid. Lyle decided to train for the 94.7 Cycle Challenge. If he was able to complete the race he would make the journey with his brother. So when he finished the race, Lyle continued training for the journey that would take them 14 days to complete.

During one of his training sessions, one of Lyle’s wheels punctured. He had no tools on him to fix the wheel. Luckily someone stopped to help him fix the wheel. The someone? Simon Clayton. When Lyle explained why he was training, Simon asked if he could take part in the ride. Simon’s dad has been battling Dementia for the past 10 years. He was all too familiar with the struggle of looking after someone with Dementia. Along with Struan, Lyle and Simon, Struan’s close friend, Gareth Myles and vet also decided to participate in the ride. Gareth is an avid cyclist, having cycled Sani2Sea, JHB2Sea and the 36one MTB challenge to name a few.

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After a year of planning, preparation and training the four kicked off their journey on 24 August in Beitbridge. They were often joined by other cyclists for short stretches at a time. Each day they cycled around 160kms. “We kept to a schedule and we were able to do every day in its full,” says Struan. “I’m most proud of the fact that we covered every single kilometre by bicycle. It was a huge achievement and it was great to know that we covered every single bit. When we stopped at night and had to make our way to our accommodation, we noted where we stopped on the bike. The next morning we went back to that exact spot.”

 

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How good do these guys look 🤩 . Watch this space for the release of their action figures 😆 . Day 1 of this epic 14 day, 2200Km journey across the country for dementia awareness and raising funds for Alzheimer’s SA to train caregivers. . Their day started with a photo shoot at the border followed by some beautiful riding without a car in sight! . Nice flat day today to ease the guys into it. . They’ve arrived safely at their accommodation at Platjan 👌🏻 . . . . . . #border2beach #border2beachpsycletour #cycletour #dementia #alzheimers #raisingawareness #alzheimersawareness #dementiaawareness #southafricancycling #southafricancyclist #instacycle #cycling #cyclinglife #southafrica #dementiasa #alzheimerssa #backabuddy #proudlysouthafrican #dementiasucks #makingadifference #raisingfunds #awesomesa #cyclingsa

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After the first few days his legs didn’t recover as well as the other three’s. But despite the pain he felt in his legs, he kept pushing.

Struan is incredibly proud of his brother Lyle for completing the ride. Although all four cyclists became fatigued during the trip, Lyle struggled the most. After the first few days his legs didn’t recover as well as the other three’s. But despite the pain he felt in his legs, he kept pushing. “I was blown away by that and it strengthened our already strong bond,” says Struan. “He had to work harder than the rest of us. Getting off the bike pained him – not just physically, but emotionally too. Knowing that he couldn’t cover every kilometre pained him a great deal.”

 

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I am in awe of my brother, Lyle. Border2beach was just an idea a year ago and Lyle was the driving force behind getting it to where it is now! Lyle sacrificed so much and worked tirelessly and I’ve never been prouder to call him my brother! In 1 year he managed to go from the couch to calling himself a cyclist! He has ridden this enormous journey across the country admirably, I’ve watched him cry with pain and sadness when he physically couldn’t carry on riding yesterday and it broke my heart. He simply wants to pay tribute to our late father and feels like he’s failing when the truth is he has had to work harder then all the rest of us every day. He is a true legend and my hero! @lylemessi @border2beach

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The route the friends undertook was inspired by Jonathon Andersons own ride 50 years ago. In 1969, Jonathan Anderson undertook a ride from Harare (called Salisbury at the time) to Cape Town with two of his school mates. They were accompanied by one of their teachers, Rob van Heerden. They lived off R1.50 a day, buying a bath at a local hotel and taking it in turns to wash themselves before cleaning their clothes. In towns where they weren’t offered a bed to sleep in, they slept on the verandah of a police station or in an empty cell. After Rob van Heerden stopped off at his in-laws place in Johannesburg, the three school boys continued on their own to Cape Town. They reached their destination after three weeks of riding.

Along with his spirit of adventure, Jonathan also passed on his selfless nature to his sons. It’s one of the reasons why they decided to use their ride to raise money for a cause they believed in. “My father was a selfless man. He chose to live his life living of small amounts, while giving away most of his life. He was a caring man and he inspired us to do something for good during our ride.”

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Having experiencing firsthand the struggles of providing care for someone with Dementia, it became the cause they rallied for. Having owned the care facility, A Place in the Country, the Anderson family knows the difference qualified trainers can make in the lives of those who have a relative battling with Dementia. Their main sponsor for the ride was LiveWell Villages. The organisation has care facilities in Cape Town and Johannesburg.  CEO, Ivan Oosthuizen joined the group on the last leg of their ride. “More than just being our sponsor, LiveWell is a really good care facility. Along with taking care of those with Dementia, their website is also a really good source of information,” says Struan.

Thanks to LiveWell and all the people who donated via their backabuddy page, the four reached their target of R200 000. The money will train 80 new caregivers. Although the ride is over and they reached their goal, you’re still able to donate to their cause. You can either donate as much as you can, or sponsor the training of a caregiver, which costs R2500.

READ MORE ON: Alzheimer's brain health cycling dementia mental health

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