Coach swings his hips for a good cause

Peter Vink with founder of Iris House Childrens Hospice Sue Van Der Linde.

Counsellor Peter Vink danced for 12 hours at a Plumstead dance studio on Saturday August 13 to raise funds for Iris House Children’s Hospice.

Pete, 41, who lives in Fish Hoek, also wants to raise awareness about disabilities in children, adolescents and adults.

From cha-cha, to foxtrot and swing to the waltz, friends, family and strangers were invited to dance with him, at a fee. At the time of going to print, he had raised R7 530.

In between dances, Pete said he has been planning the challenge “forever” wanting to raise funds for Iris House Children’s Hospice. When he joined Expression Dance Studios in Plumstead earlier this year, he asked owner Johan Rautenbach if he could do it.

“He said he wanted to dance for a few hours. I told him that if he danced for 12 hours he could do it on a Saturday,” Johan told the Bulletin.

Asked why he chose the Bellville charity, Pete said he had been in a crash when he was 11, which landed him in ICU with a fractured skull and paralysis down his left side.

“I couldn’t walk, talk, read or write, and over time found myself in a socially isolated position having lost the ability to interact and engage with others.”

Over time, his vocal chords recovered and his sister, Wendy, aged almost three, taught him his first word as his voice returned – his first word was “Mom-my”.

He says it was thanks to the patience, support and committed guidance by a few people, especially his mom, Lyn, and Wendy that got him through everything. But not quite. He says, according to his neurologist he was not meant to re-enter the school system, never mind matriculate. However, with much determination he returned to school, matriculated and now has a dream to pay it forward.

“I’ve come out of the other side but some of them won’t. This dance is a way for me to reflect on my struggles,” he said.

Wearing high heels and ready to dance was Sue van der Linde, who founded Iris House Children’s Hospice in May 2011. Her husband, Ferdi, had given her time off from celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary to support Pete.

She said the hospice offers respite care to 12 families in the south, it’s a small percentage of the 257 families they help, but she sees a growing need in the area.

Iris House is committed to enriching the quality of life for special needs children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions and provides support for their families.

Ms Van Der Linde said the organisation gets very little funding from the state, and because they offer a free service they need to create an income. So they depend on fund-raisers, such as Pete’s, to keep going.

Lyn Vink, a teacher at Sweet Valley Primary School in Bergvliet said she had not known anything about Pete’s plan until she saw something on Facebook. She had arrived early that morning bearing a plate of sandwiches and other goodies to sustain her son and supporters. “I’m very proud that he’s giving back. He’s always been empathetic to the physically challenged and says he could have been like that.”

For more information about Iris House Children’s Hospice call 021 910 0539, or visit www.iris-house.org.za