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Singer Ronan Keating chats to Prof Alan Davidson during a recent visit to the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital in Cape Town. Picture: JUSTIN REINECKE
Singer Ronan Keating chats to Prof Alan Davidson during a recent visit to the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital in Cape Town. Picture: JUSTIN REINECKE

Citadel, the wealth management specialists, have been championing and supporting numerous organisations via the Citadel Philanthropy Foundation — the first donor-advised fund of its kind in SA, headed by Jean de Villiers.

The foundation acts as a conduit that makes it much easier for individuals and companies to give back to vetted non-profit organisations.  

One such organisation is the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, which has benefited from Citadel’s philanthropy initiatives since 2018.

The hospital is one of two beneficiaries that will receive donations from the R2m raised during this year’s edition of Citadel’s annual fundraising event, A Night With Ronan Keating, which recently took place in the Mother City.

One of the world’s most regarded paediatric institutions, the Red Cross hospital provides care for those who don't have the privilege of private medical care. Citadel has a close relationship with the hospital's oncology unit.

Cancer will directly or indirectly influence all South Africans. And when it manifests in children, cancer triggers a sense of helplessness in many — despite the great successes achieved by the hospital’s oncology staff.  

The pandemic has challenged hospitals and the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital is no exception. Some of the functions that Groote Schuur previously provided are now the responsibility of Red Cross staff. With responsibility comes opportunity, such as bone marrow transplants, which have migrated from Groote Schuur to the Red Cross hospital.

After 14 years in London, Dr Helder de Quintal returned to SA in 2022. He works alongside professor Alan Davidson in the oncology unit at the hospital and has a global perspective of the unit’s needs and where best to deploy funding. 

“Novel therapies are important. We are a committed oncology ward, but some of the advanced drugs available in private care aren’t always available to a government institution. Even a small change in acquiring more refined and less toxic treatments makes an enormous difference to vulnerable children battling cancer.”

Even a small change in acquiring more refined and less toxic treatments makes a huge difference to vulnerable children battling cancer
Dr Helder de Quintal of the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital

Though the hospital embraces technology and the potential of advanced therapies, staff remain aware that patients can suffer from a range of comorbidities such as TB or HIV/Aids, and so treatments must be adapted accordingly. 

“You can't always import and apply the latest American or European therapies here without case-specific consideration. We strive to understand our patients and their specific socioeconomic vulnerabilities.”

De Quintal also understands that the hospital serves a diverse and vulnerable patient profile. “The best therapies and most advanced chemical interventions won't make a difference if patients can't get to the hospital for their treatments. Especially as fuel prices escalate, making transport costs even more unaffordable for the poor parents.”

The money distributed via the Citadel Philanthropy Foundation is used in many ways. “Transporting parents and a child can be part of the care regime,” said De Quintal. 

Low literacy levels and health awareness in many of SA's poor communities mean there's often a stigma attached to cancer. Oncology patients can become ostracised and this is particularly traumatic for children undergoing treatment, rotating between the hospital and their communities, to recuperate.

Thus donations from the Citadel Philanthropy Foundation are also used to counter this stigma, something that happens outside the hospital's grounds, but makes a worthy difference to its patients. 

Irish singer Ronan Keating, who is a dedicated ambassador for the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, has personal experience of the devastating effects that the stigma attached to cancer can have.

His mother died of breast cancer, a highly treatable illness, at a young age (51) because regular breast examinations were considered an unnecessary awkwardness in their community, undoing the benefits of early detection.

Jean de Villiers (left), head of Philanthropy at Citadel, and Gary Player, founder of the Blair Atholl Pre-Primary School, plant trees on the school's grounds to symbolise its growth. Picture: ZOON CRONJE
Jean de Villiers (left), head of Philanthropy at Citadel, and Gary Player, founder of the Blair Atholl Pre-Primary School, plant trees on the school's grounds to symbolise its growth. Picture: ZOON CRONJE

This is one of the reasons Keating is passionate about partnering with Citadel for their annual charity event, which includes a gala dinner and a golf day with retired championship golfer Gary Player.

Beyond his performances at this gala, Keating visits the hospital each year to experience the impact the money raised has had on infrastructure, treatment and research. 

The R2m raised this year will be equally split between the hospital's oncology unit and the Blair Atholl Pre-Primary School in Johannesburg. 

Player and his late wife, Vivienne, established the school on their own property, near Lanseria, in 1990 to uplift the community. 

Sound foundational phase education is a rarity for children from severely underprivileged communities. 

The money raised through Citadel's fundraising event helps Blair Atholl's 125 learners enjoy two meals a day and a learning journey with ideally sized classes of 25 children. 

This article was paid for by Citadel.


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