Young Woman Overcomes a Life-Threatening Illness; Releases Song to Inspire Hope
Johannesburg, South Africa – 4 May 2023: Bronté Borcherds is 9 years old, and the world is her playground. Laughter fills the air as she plays hopscotch with her friends and sings acapella to her family in the living room. That year, three words changed her life, her future, and her family’s too – auto-immune hepatitis. A challenging path lay before her little tenacious feet.
Life changed. Borcherds experienced exhaustion, nausea, bloating and stomach pain. Her immune system was attacking her liver and causing inflammation. If left untreated, she could experience liver failure.
Her treatment progressed quickly and moved her Johannesburg-based family to Cape Town where she received a liver transplant and specialised care at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital. Borcherds, now 30 years old, expressed her gratitude for her family, especially her brave younger brother. She praised the support she felt in her darkest times from the team of doctors, nurses, medical staff, and fellow little warriors facing life-threatening diseases.
Being in the hospital for weeks and even months at a time, the constant pricks of needles, and dialysis took its toll. However, Borcherds optimistically reminisced how over years of treatment, it was music that became a lifeline for her: “Music was always there. Even when my hands were too sore from swapped drips to use my phone, I always had my favourite songs to listen to and keep me company,” she said.
When she was 16 years old, something life-changing happened. She met with a Reach For A Dream representative, and remembers the question that changed everything: “What is the dream in your heart?”
The Reach For A Dream team has been asking children facing life-threatening illnesses this question for the past 35 years. With the charity fulfilling about six dreams nationwide every day, its team has witnessed the extreme pressure children facing life-threatening illnesses endure.
“These magical moments grant these youngsters and their families an invaluable respite from daily stressors associated with ill health. But more than anything else, what truly makes this experience special is how fulfilled dreams stir up much-needed courage and hope, helping these little ones believe that tomorrow is worth fighting for,” says Julia Sotirianakos, CEO at Reach For A Dream.
Borcherds felt the support from the Foundation: “Meeting the team at Reach For A Dream and other dreamers made me realise I wasn’t alone in the world. There’s always a helping hand should you ask for it and people who know your struggle.”
Borcherds’ dream was to visit a recording studio and make her own music. However, the Foundation went over and above to fulfil her dream. On her special day, she had the red carpet rolled out, and a limousine take her together with her best friend to Sony Studios.
“When I got to the studio, I saw Loyiso Bala and my mind was blown,” exclaimed Borcherds. “I felt like I was in a movie. I literally sang with this famous singer and thought ‘this is crazy’.”
Reach For A Dream not only makes a dream come true but seeks to inspire hope in the child. In the case of Borcherds, her dream fulfilment re-ignited a new zest and energy that would shape her life: “When I got my dream, I met someone who has made it in the music industry. It is amazing because I saw that it’s a real thing – not just something that is far away and happens to other people. To have it right here was a top-tier moment for me because I saw that I could do it too,” explained Borcherds.
Borcherds remains a keen supporter of the charity and is the inspiration and voice behind “Step Up” – the theme song that accompanies the Slipper Shuffle, a nationwide dance challenge designed to get South Africans on their feet and into their slippers in support of Reach For A Dream’s largest annual fundraiser, Slipper Day on 5 May 2023.
“’Step Up’ is about believing that your goals and dreams are attainable; that even on your worst days, there is light at the end of the tunnel,” says Borcherds. “Ultimately, it’s a song about hope and encourages everyone to use the power of their dreams to overcome obstacles.”
To do the Slipper Shuffle, simply visit Reach For A Dream’s YouTube channel and watch the step-by-step tutorial or the full 30 second Slipper Shuffleby TikTok sensation and school teacher Mrs Bullock. Wear your slippers and sticker, download the theme song Step Up, film yourself doing the Slipper Shuffle, post it on social media, and challenge your friends, other businesses, and schools to do the same. Remember to hashtag #ReachForADream, #SlipperShuffle and #SlipperDay2023.
“Getting involved with Slipper Day is an easy way to do something meaningful while having fun and supporting an incredible cause! So, step up, wear your supporter sticker and slippers on 5 May and do the Slipper Shuffle to help make dreams come true,” says Sotirianakos.
Slipper Day stickers cost R20 and are available at Wimpy, Pick ‘n Pay, Dis-Chem Pharmacies, ToyZone, and Dis-Chem Baby City. Remember to wear your sticker and slippers to Wimpy on 5 May and get a free Famous Wimpy Coffee.