Summitting in Support

Dec 8, 2023 | Fundraisers, News

For the past six months, Hamilton electrician Mike Ridderhof has been regularly hiking up the picturesque Hakarimata Summit in Ngāruawāhia to prepare for a fundraising challenge held last month to honour the seventh anniversary of his nephew’s passing from melanoma.

Mike’s nephew, Gavin Du Preez and his family immigrated from South Africa to New Zealand in January 2015, and four months later, the 48-year-old was admitted to Waikato Hospital Emergency Department after having a mild leg seizure while driving. Mike said the emergency doctor suspected it was cancer and immediately referred him to a specialist, who diagnosed Gavin with stage 4 melanoma. Although Gavin received some radiation treatment on his brain, Mike said the cancer had already spread too far.

On 23 November, Gavin sadly passed away – just four months after his diagnosis, leaving behind his wife, Penny and two sons, David, 4, and Joshua, 2.

Mike said he never worried about melanoma or wore sun protection in the ‘old days’. He now understands the dangers we all face from UV radiation and wants to help raise awareness about this deadly disease.

As a marathon runner, Mike’s mantra has always been, ‘Do something hard because it makes everything else easy.’ So, he set himself a challenge to reach 17,664 steps in 24 hours to mark the number of days Gavin was on earth, all while raising funds for Melanoma New Zealand.

(Gavin Du Preez above left)

He also chose the Hakarimata Summit because it is well-shaded. Friends and family trained with Mike, including Gavin’s son Joshua, who is now nine. In July, Joshua summitted the Hakarimata Summit an impressive six times. Mike did an incredible 13 summits over nine-and-a-half hours, totalling 35,552 steps, surpassing his original goal for his November 17,664 step challenge.

However, in September, Mike’s plans abruptly stopped after being admitted to hospital with a suspected heart attack. His cardiologist eventually gave him the go-ahead to continue with the challenge, but injuries to his hip and knees held up his training, so he devised a new plan.

“Considering my injuries and my family being on my case, I decided to change the challenge to no longer being about how many summits I could do, but how many summits the entire Huks community could do in 24 hours.”

Over 300 people turned up at different times over the 24 hours to participate in the Huks Challenge, including 15-year-old Lachlan Bullen, who wanted to raise funds and awareness about the dangers of melanoma after seeing his grandfather go through treatment for his second bout of an aggressive form of melanoma.

Together, the community climbed more than one million stairs.

So far, Mike has raised $2,594 of his $17,664 goal, and Lachlan raised $1,024, exceeding his $1,000 target. We thank Mike, Lachlan, and everyone in the community who participated in the Huks Challenge for their generous support.

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