JEEMT Long Cane Rally 2023

After a 4-year hiatus we came back. Over the past few years, a combination of Covid and weather not playing ball, we returned en-mass to Worcester. Everyone was super excited to have one of their favourite events back: The John and Esther Ellerman Memorial Trust (JEEMT) Long Cane Rally.

The trust was founded in 1974 by St Dunstan’s South Africa to perpetuate the memory of the late Sir John Reeves Ellerman, who was a great benefactor and friend of St Dunstan’s and a Member of the Board. 

John Reeves Ellerman always believed that to be able to enjoy a full working and social life, mobility was of vital importance to a blind or visually impaired person. 

The JEEMT supports 25 Orientation and Mobility Practitioners and over the years this support has assisted those in need to access the relevant skills and training to live empowered and independent lives. 

The LCR gives our participants the opportunity to show off their long cane skills on the day of the event. We had participants from various organisations and schools for the blind i.e., Athlone School for the Blind, Pioneer School for the Blind, Madrassa Tu Lil Muaaqeen  (institute for visual impaired), Innovation for the Blind, Beacon Social Club for the Blind, Cape Town Society for the Blind and Guide dogs. Let’s not forget the important role a guide dog plays in mobility and independence.

We usually have the LCR in October for eye awareness month, but this year we decided to have the event in March as we waited so long for lockdown to be over. Mountain Mill Shopping Centre in Worcester kindly offered their outdoor arena to host our event. What a beautiful venue. The outdoor arena overlooks the lake and has a stage and enough tables and chairs to seat our participants while they had their lunch.

JEEMT transported those organisations who did not have the resources to transport their participants to Worcester. We didn’t want anyone to be left behind.

The participants started off their 3km walk from the outdoor arena, into the park and back. One of the young participants finished off saying with a big smile ‘shooo that now was a walk and a half It was not just a walk in the park”. The walk tested their skills, navigating unknown pathways and forcing participants to rely on their canes and guide dogs to get them there and back safely. The Marshalls along the route, ensured that everyone was safe and were ready to offer any support if needed.

Worcester being well known to get really hot, offered some cooling off showers of rain during the day eliciting shrieks, laughter and fun. Cooling those walking their route and sending those sitting at the tables scattering off for cover while others embraced the rain with sheer delight.

As participants reached their finished line, they were rewarded with a gift for participating and goody bags with fruit, bottled water and snacks from the Worcester community, all packed with love. We even had Pioneer’s own DJ Quinton, broadcasting live and playing great tunes which got some peoples feet moving to the beat while Chantelle, also from Pioneer School was taking photos and capturing those memorable moments for us.

As everyone settled in their organisations followed by receiving their Steers double King Steer burgers thankfully sponsored by Steers, the lucky draw names were drawn. There were a whopping number of gifts to be won. It just warmed your heart to see the excitement and delight on the faces of the prize winners when they came up to collect their prizes. These delightful prizes had various items in the bags such as puma caps and socks sponsored by Puma; bottles of olive oil sponsored by Greenleaf, some kitchen items from Guide Dogs’ cute little buckets with a face cloth from Nadeema and shower gel, bags of sweets, water bottles and more sponsored by JEEMT.

The Two Ocean’s Aquarium also generously donated 4 tickets for 2 well deserving children and an accompanying adult from Athlone and Pioneer schools for the Blind.

The day was full of laughter and excitement but did not go without its challenges. Besides the rain, how can a day go by without loadshedding stepping in to cause its own ripples. As true South Africans so used to loadshedding by now, we did not let this stop our fun and continued the day through organised chaos. Everyone went home nicely cooled off by the rain and warmed up after a tasty burger to warm and fill their bellies.

We thank everyone again for joining us and making it a fun filled day. See you all next year.

#jeemt #lcr #longcanerally #guidedog #visuallyimpaired #blind #blindness #visionloss #creatingawareness

Written by Andrea Burton - St Dunstan's Association