Miracle Drive raises millions for good causes

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Hein Wagner (44), who has been blind since birth, inspired over 1 400 guests at this year’s Chabad Miracle Drive at the Sandton Convention Centre on Tuesday night, by encouraging them to achieve more by using all their five senses - when he had achieved so much with only four.
by SUZANNE BELLING | Feb 23, 2017

“If you change the way you look at things, you will change what you see,” he said at this major fundraiser for a myriad charitable projects. The Miracle Drive has over the years become a highlight on the Jewish social calendar, epitomising pomp and splendour – all for a good cause.

Wagner, a guest speaker at the event, said he sees his lack of sight not as an impediment, but as a challenge. He holds the World Blind Land Speed Record at 322,52 kilometres per hour - the second time he has broken the record. He has completed the Absa Cape Epic, ran the Antarctica Marathon, the Two Oceans and New York Marathons, completed the Ironman, competed in the World Triathlon Series in Cape Town, finished several Cape Town Cycle Tours, tackled the white waters of the Zambezi River, climbed the 10 highest mountains in the Western Cape and completed the Cape to Rio Yacht Race.

“The day I started looking at my blindness from a different perspective, it became the biggest opportunity.”

He urged everyone to “make a difference” and become ambassadors for the Miracle Drive ARK (Acts of Random Kindness) project. The project is driven by Rabbi David Masinter, director of Chabad House in South Africa.

The ARK programme for children and adults has reached over 450 000 participants.

“When you give a little of what you have got, you will get more than you can ever imagine,” Wagner said.

Lincoln Mali, group head, card and emerging payments at Standard Bank, one of the sponsors of Miracle Drive, said: “Your efforts have created miracles for many less fortunate than yourselves. Our national unity is starting to fracture and our society is starting to polarise. These fractures manifest themselves in different ways - sometimes black versus white, local versus foreign, rich versus poor, rural versus urban and ruling party versus the opposition.”

“As we shout at one another, as we hurl insults, denigrate, humiliate and inflict maximum pain, the cracks grow wider, the differences become more glaring and the bonds that have held us together, weaken.”

But the reality was that our problems were common and it was our duty as leaders to build on what we had in common.

“Our responsibility is to create a bright future for all South Africans; to take all constituencies with us, use our skills in building a guiding coalition of change.”

We needed to create understanding and consensus among our people. “Plainly speaking, we have to continue to persuade those fortunate enough to have access to resources, skills, education, assets, wealth and positions of privilege, that their future prosperity lies in a society that grows its economy and spreads its wealth…

“May each of us find their colour in our rainbow, may more of our people find a place at our prosperity table and may all our people see themselves in the picture of the future we are creating.”

Miracle Drive chairman, Robbie Brozin, announced that the total raised by Miracle Drive over the past year was R20,4 million. Among the beneficiaries were Cape Town, Umhlanga, the Torah Academy schools and Chabad House in Johannesburg.

Programmes included youth camps, learning, with day and night classes, kashrut courses, Hebrew reading and lectures, as well as a multi-media centre and bookshop, according to Rabbi Michael Katz, director of Chabad House.

“From dependency and addiction counselling and therapy to family counselling with professionals, Jewish guidance from rabbis, hospital and prison chaplaincy and everything in between, our social programmes have seen hundreds of lives uplifted,” Rabbi Katz said.

Some 20 000 Grow Your Life books, written by Rabbi Masinter, are distributed annually to assist children to find hope and morality in their futures. Twelve libraries have been installed in underprivileged areas around Johannesburg, with an additional eight under construction. 

Rabbi Masinter said the Miracle Drive was bringing light to a dark world.

He announced the winner of the main prize of the evening - a Nissan Qashqai – was Bradley Lever.

MC for the event was comedian John Vlismas. Mentalist Gilan Gork provided dramatic ‘random” acts involving members of the audience.

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