Turning 40 was an occasion that I wanted to make memorable in as many ways as possible.
I decided to make a weekend of the celebrations and so my family and some close friends and I spent a wonderful weekend away at Elgro River Lodge on the banks of the Vaal River.
Having my family and friends with me ensured that this was the most memorable birthday to date, but there was something really special that I believe made it truly unique. What many people don’t know is that I was born with a clubfoot, which was surgically corrected when I was just a few months old. I am currently the patron of STEPS which is a charity founded in 2005.
STEPS supports the treatment of clubfoot using the Ponseti Method, which starts with a series of plaster casts over a period of four to six weeks to gradually turn a child’s foot (or feet) back into the normal position without using invasive surgery. After treatment, a clubfoot brace needs to be worn until four years of age to prevent recurrence.
Some hospitals with clubfoot clinics have a poor supply of braces, if they have any supply at all, and if clubfoot keeps on recurring the child will eventually need surgery. In addition, around 50% of parents give up on using the brace or can’t afford it in the first place, leading to relapses, and as a result the child often grows up disabled.
STEPS and the parents need support to help their babies conquer clubfoot. I therefore requested from everyone to not buy any gifts but to rather make any donation (no matter how big or small) to STEPS.
I have always believed that “I get by with a little help from my friends,” and together we have raised R10 000, ultimately giving 10 children the biggest gift of all – the gift of walking!
I am so overwhelmed and thankful to everyone who has donated. This means so much to me and I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.
Bernelee was Miss South Africa in 1995 and was born with clubfoot. Her generosity and the story of the children she helped inspired her friends to do the same for their birthdays too. As a result, 17 children with complex or resistant clubfoot got the special brace they need to help prevent recurrence.