The date was Saturday, 12 May 2018. That’s the day little Adriaan le Roux got to meet his Vodacom Bulls heroes. That’s the day he saw his dream come true.
Adriaan is a beneficiary of the Smile Foundation, which helps children with facial abnormalities to receive free corrective surgery. To date, they have helped to put the smile back on the faces of over 2 600 children.
This season, Vodacom teamed up with the Smile Foundation as part of the Vodacom Tries for Smiles campaign, which saw every try scored by a South African team during Vodacom Super Rugby rewarded with a donation of R3 000 to the Foundation.
With Vodacom Super Rugby done and dusted, the total tally of tries scored by the SA teams during the season stood at 244. This equates to R732 000 raised for children who are in desperate need to receive life-changing surgeries.
The Vodacom Bulls’ Tries for Smiles journey began back in April when they visited the brave kids in the children’s ward at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital to see first-hand the incredible difference their tries would be making in the lives of the youngsters. Players, Jamba Ulengo, Travis Ismaiel, Edgar Maratlulle, Marnitz Boshoff and Ivan van Zyl, all left with an extra incentive to cross the whitewash.
The relationship between the Vodacom Bulls and Tries for Smiles was further cemented when brave Adriaan was chosen to be the Child Mascot when the Bulls took on the Cell C Sharks at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in their Vodacom Super Rugby clash in May. It was a once in a lifetime experience for Bulls fan Adriaan, who met star scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl in the Bulls locker room before leading the team out alongside captain, Burger Odendaal.
But Adriaan’s story is not yet finished. The Smile Foundation also strives to ensure that its beneficiaries are successfully integrated back into their schools and communities.
“Children with facial deformities are often ostracized and their parents have long journeys to assist their children both physically and emotionally,” says Janus Kloppers, Principle Specialist for Sponsorship at Vodacom.
And so to complete the journey, the Vodacom Bulls had a surprise for Adriaan at Esperanza Primary School in Newlands, Johannesburg. Arriving unannounced, the Bulls players, Lood De Jager and Lizo Gqoboka casually strolled into his classroom and beckoned a wide-eyed Adriaan to come up to the front of his class, shake the players’ hands and receive a jersey, before sharing snacks with all his classmates.
When it was time to leave, the players exited the class to the sounds of gleeful laughter and affectionate slaps on the back as Adriaan’s schoolmates treated him like the true hero he is.
“Smile Foundation is privileged to have the backing of Vodacom in this incredible initiative. We are eternally grateful to Vodacom and the Vodacom Bulls for making a child’s dream come true, this school visit is profound as it creates awareness in the communities and alleviates the stigma of children living with facial conditions,” says Hedley Lewis, Smile Foundation’s CEO.