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Launch of the NYC Marathon Million Rand Challenge

It was a packed house at the Mixim Squash Court in Belgravia on Saturday 3 September as family, friends, colleagues, business people and media gathered for the official launch of the Irafaan Abrahams NYC Marathon R1 Million Challenge. The project is the brain child of the energetic educator and radio personality and will see ‘Vinnige Fanie’, as he is aptly known, run the elite marathon to raise R1 million for schools in the Western Cape.

The venue was a symbolic nod to Fanie’s early childhood years when he first developed a love for sport, by learning to play squash.  It was here where he spent most of his days as a teenager, in an area that had become the epicentre of the anti-apartheid student uprisings in the 1980’s.

As guests arrived, they were treated to hot soup and snacks, made by Fanie’s hands-on mother and wife, and served by his hardworking learners from the Rocklands High Social Club. The event was opened with a prayer by Sheikh Ebrahim Dawood, principal of Darul Arkam high school, one of the schools taking part in the initiative. Jeff Paulse from the Gleemor Baptist Church said a few opening words, to mark the importance of the gathering.

Keynote speaker Amien Jacobs, the national coordinator of Sanzaf – one of the project’s sponsors – waxed lyrically about his relationship with Fanie. The two met when Jacobs spontaneously joined an 11 year old Fanie and his friends in a cricket match – forging a bond that would last more than 30 years.

Yusuf Fisher , marketing manager for Al Anwar Travel and Tours, thanked Fanie for allowing the company to jump on board. But Fisher took a humourous swipe at Fanie’s pink jacket, leaving the audience in stiches.

“Please, please, all I ask is that you don’t wear that colour. If you do, the other runners will run away from you…” he quipped.

Jade Daniels, from Solid Sports Clinic is Fanie’s physical trainer, who has been tasked with keeping the runner in shape. Daniels said she was honoured to be part of the project, but admitted hard work lies ahead. She made no bones about the fact that she would be cracking the whip on him, to ensure he would be mentally and physically prepared for the race.

Learners from Rocklands high paid a warm tribute to their teacher, whom they described as an outstanding role-model and pillar of strength. Shakiera Ariefdien and Amiena Lewis said they had been inspired by “Mr Abrahams” to become better learners and better people, through their community activities with Rocklands High Social Club – a project created by the teacher to empower his learners. In a heartfelt poem read to the audience, the girls said the educator was driven and dedicated, always striking a balance as a firm but understanding leader

The tributes become too overwhelming for the man of the hour, so much so that when it was time for him to take the stage, he was at a loss for words. But Fanie quickly found his feet, taking the audience on a poignant but humourous journey of his life from his youth to the present.  He also honoured his parents, wife and children, who had been there every step of the way, to make his dreams a reality.

The speeches would not be complete without Fanie’s talkative 10 year old daughter Saarah saying a few words. In the most emotional part of the evening, she broke into tears as she paid homage to her father, thanking him for being a great dad. There were hardly dry eyes in sight as she expressed confidence that he would be able to achieve his goal.

The proceedings ended with the launch of the official logo and website by Hasanain Abdullah from The Worx Web Design, the brains behind Fanie’s online marketing campaign. In a slideshow projected onto the walls of one of the squash courts, Hasanain introduced the website, which officially went live. The evening ended with homemade biscuits, cake and tea and photographs with Fanie.

Photos of the Launch of the NYC Marathon Million Rand Challenge


  1. I am proud to be associated with you.Go Fanie go!
    We pray that your mission of facilitating the raising of the money
    as well as completing the marathon within a credible time is reached!
    God is Great.

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