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In a year that was the ultimate high tackle on all rugby fans, Vodacom Super Rugby has still found a way to make an impact for the Childhood Cancer Foundation of South Africa (CHOC) with a R1 million donation in support of the children who’ve had to face even tougher tackles throughout their young lives.

The cheque handover took place at the Soweto CHOC house on Wednesday 18 November.

CHOC was the official charity for a 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby season that was going to see R100 donated by Vodacom and SuperSport for every tackle made by a South African player, and R1 of every fan’s ticket also going towards the #TacklingCancer initiative.

When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the season, both Vodacom and SuperSport agreed to each donate R500 000 to CHOC in a bid to ensure that the children who already have to fight the biggest battles of their lives still get the critical support they need.

“We first started the #TacklingCancer initiative in 2019 and we raised R1 million for CHOC. The response was so powerful that we decided to do that again this season. Unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic hit and stopped the Vodacom Super Rugby competition. But as Vodacom we are dedicated to supporting CHOC and together with SuperSport we wanted to honour that commitment,” said Liam Dobell, Head of Rugby at Vodacom.

CHOC provides vital support by housing children receiving treatment for cancer and transporting them, their families and carers to hospital for their treatment.

“It resonates with me personally because I have two family members who have survived cancer. So seeing what they went through, and being a young father myself, it gave me a totally new perspective on what the families of these children go through,” said Dobell.

The CHOC homes are an important place of refuge for these children and their families during this difficult time, and these homes rely solely on donations to keep providing this service.

“As with so many others, COVID-19 hit us hard. It changed everything in terms of the way people donate to charity, and our income fell immediately. We had to retrench a few people and we also had to cut salaries. But our services still had to continue,” said Nagm Azar, CEO of CHOC.

“Donations such as this from Vodacom and SuperSport are such a boost for us because they give us hope for the future, which in turn means a future for the children we support. People don’t realise that 70-80% of children can survive childhood cancer if it’s detected early and treated. We do what we do because we know it makes a difference.

“I’m the parent of a child who had cancer, and today he is a 30-year-old man who is a fully-function citizen of South Africa helping to contribute to this country. So we are extremely grateful. This was a year when there were no tackles to raise the money, but Vodacom and SuperSport still found a way to support us.”

At the handover, Vodacom also unveiled the Soweto CHOC house’s new Teen Room.

One of the needs identified by CHOC is the creation of a more teenage-friendly space in their homes where teenage patients can watch their own television shows, game, and have access to WiFi. The new Teenage Room at the Soweto CHOC House caters to exactly this need, giving them their own space as they go through their own unique challenges around cancer treatment.

“We were joined by players from the Vodacom Bulls and Emirates Lions who helped us put some finishing touches on the Teenage Room, and it looks amazing. It made an impact on the players as well. They were the first to admit that although they were clearly the biggest and strongest people here, the real super heroes are these children who are battling cancer,” said Dobell.

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