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The Sunflower Fund: Ambassadors of Hope

As many of you know, in April 2014 we launched a brand new charity donation initiative. Since then we’ve been donating R5.00 from every flower and gift order to charity in an ongoing effort to give back to the community and to help those less fortunate.

Henk Jayson Johan at Summit of Aconcagua

Of course, we also wanted to give you, our beloved customer the opportunity to make your own contribution, so we added a block to our shopping cart page where you can optionally add your own donation to your order.

You can read more about our Charity Donation Initiative here.

The first charity to be included in our program was The Sunflower Fund. I’m sure many South African’s reading this have heard of The Sunflower Fund and the great work they are doing for children and adults suffering from life-threatening blood disorders like Leukemia. But for the benefit of our overseas customers and those who aren’t entirely familiar with their work, we want to tell you a bit more about The Sunflower Fund, and share a few stories that really touched our hearts. By the end of this article, I think you’ll understand why we are so passionate about supporting these guys, and we hope you will feel the same way too.

The Sunflower Fund works tirelessly to raise funds and recruit new bone marrow donors in an effort to save lives. They run a series of events throughout the year which include the Annual Sunflower Golf Day, Miles for Marrow Cycle Ride, Annual Sunflower Ball and probably the most well-known of all, the National Bandana Day campaign. You can read more about their ongoing work here.

Reza Price: Severe Aplastic Anaemia

Zeenat and Reza Price

The first story we heard about from The Sunflower Fund that really ripped at our hearts, was that of Reza Price.

Reza who is nearly 17 years old was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anaemia in September 2009 just after his 12th birthday.

With Aplastic Anaemia, the best chance of a cure is a Bone Marrow Stem Cell Transplant from a matching donor.  Siblings and family were tested initially but no matches were found. The local South African and international registries were also checked, but without any success. Over the past 5 years, Reza has gone through all the possible treatments for his disease, though nothing has brought success.

Reza is currently receiving weekly blood transfusions which is the only thing sustaining him health wise. At times his heath deteriorates to a point where he requires blood transfusions twice a week.  Last year Reza's health took a turn for the worse and he was declared terminal mid-Feb 2013.

Because of dangerously low blood counts, his body has practically no platelets. When he started a profuse nosebleed it lasted about 2 months.  All kinds of methods were employed to stop the bleeding, but to no avail. The doctors were at their wits end when miraculously, the bleeding stopped.

Reza’s condition is relatively stable currently, however his state of health is of huge concern and he hasn’t been able to go to school much in the past few years. The search is still on for a suitable bone marrow stem cell match for Reza and the registries worldwide are continuously scanned for this.

“Almost 5yrs on and this is still Reza's only chance of a cure.  We remain hopeful that a donor will be found for him.

Zeenat Price (Reza’s Mom)”

Archibishop Emmertius Desmond Tutu and the Price Family

This just demonstrates the desperate need for donors in South Africa, and around the world!

But it doesn’t have to be this way… here’s a heart warming story of a man who not only beat Leukemia, but went on to become a hero in the fight against this deadly disease.

Ray Funnell: Never Lose Your Dream

Ray Funnell Lost City Classic Cycle Race

Ray Funnell was first diagnosed with AML leukemia in August 2006 after noticing that a bruise on his arm wouldn't heal. His doctor informed him that the survival rate was 20%, but he remained upbeat and determined to join the survivors. After 7 days of continuous chemo followed by 3 weeks of recovery in an isolation ward, Ray was advised to look for a bone marrow donor. Fortunately his only sibling Gary turned out to be a perfect match, and a stem cell transplant was performed at the beginning of 2007.

After a brief relapse in 2008 and another high dose of Chemo therapy, Ray eventually became the leukaemia survivor he had set out to be. He also became a 7 Summits Mountaineer and an “Ambassadors of Hope” for The Sunflower Fund!

Ray is a phenomenal individual with a passion for life and adventure that is rarely seen.

“I’m a big supporter of the “Just Do It” attitude as it makes for unexpected and exciting experiences. Daring to do the seemingly impossible is the very attitude that makes us grow, mature and ultimately reveals our true inner strength, which we ALL have!!”

A few short years ago it may have seemed like a crazy idea for a Leukaemia survivor to set out to climb the 7 Summits. Now this dream is about to be realised.  Ray and his son Jayson have conquered peaks such as Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, Elbrus, Vinson and Kosciusko. To complete the 7 Summits Challenge, they will have to embark on three more journeys to Carstenz Pyramid, Denali and lastly Mount Everest, which they plan to climb after Jayson turns 18.

Ray and Jayson with Mt. Vinson in the Background

Jayson has also entered into the record books by being the youngest South African ever to summit Aconcagua and Vinson, showing that true grit and determination certainly runs in the family.

The Funnell Family then put together a fundraising event with The Sunflower Fund in Johannesburg called “Everest Challenge” or more affectionately known as “100 000 Stairs of Hope”.  This entailed a gruelling climb up and down the famous Westcliff Stairs over a period of 36 hours.  This equated to climbing the equivalent height of Mt Everest (8840m) in a weekend.  Ray gathered a team of 18 athletes which included Sibusiso Vilane, who has conquered Mt Everest twice.

 “This event was mega tough for all the athletes but it’s for such a great cause that we are going to do it again this year on 13-14 December 2014”.

Everest Challenge

Ray also finds the time to ride various cycle races which include The Argus and 94.7 and has most recently taken up running marathons as well.

Ray’s sentiments that he lives by:

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but rather the moments that take our breath away” and “Never lose your dream!”

Now in case that wasn’t inspiring enough, here’s one more story we’d like to share…

The Story of Thabo… and a Life Saved

I have to confess, the above video definitely got me choked up… there might even have been some tears involved, but I’d prefer not to admit that part…

Hopefully you’ll see why we are so passionate about our little donations project, and why we hope you’ll also get involved by making a small donation the next time you place an order on our website. And if you don’t want to wait until your next order, you can even make a donation right away here:

Click to Make a Donation

Of course we know times are tough, so please don’t feel compelled to part with money you can’t afford… even if you just share this article with your family and friends, or tell them about our Charity Donations Initiative, you’ll be helping in a big way.


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