Riding for baby Vann

21:27, Nov 13 2012
One-year-old Vann is an @Heart Kid and recently underwent his second open heart surgery.
One-year-old Vann is an @Heart Kid and recently underwent his second open heart surgery.

Matamata accountant Heath Tapper is set to compete in his fourth Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge next Saturday - but this year has extra meaning.

As Mr Tapper struggles 160km around New Zealand's biggest lake, he will be thinking of his nephew Vann and the struggles the one-year-old will face for the rest of his life.

Vann was born with congenital heart disease and two weeks ago had open-heart surgery for the second time.

Though the operation was a success, Mr Tapper said Vann has a long way to go and, along with his family, need a lot of support.

And that's where @Heart comes in.

@Heart is the official charity of the Cycle Challenge and is the only organisation in New Zealand dedicated to providing lifelong support to people affected by childhood heart conditions.

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Cycle Challenge competitors can sign up to become an Everyday Hero and raise money for the charity online.

Mr Tapper is leading the Everyday Heroes' fundraising effort so far, with a total of $2065.

"My first target was $500 and then I raised $300 in the first few minutes," he said.

"It was amazing. I couldn't believe how generous people were. I had to keep putting my target up."

Determined to stay at the top of the table, Mr Tapper has now set a target of $2500.

Proceeds from this year's race will go towards Camp Brave Heart, a five-day camp for @Heart kids aged eight to 12.

Kids are able to challenge themselves to outdoor activities like kayaking, rope climbing and BMX riding in a safe environment with medical supervision.

Vann is too young to go but Mr Tapper said it was something he could look forward to in the future.

"My brother said @Heart has been really good for them so I want to raise as much as I can."

A member of Matamata Peddlers, Mr Tapper has been training hard for the event and is hoping to finish with a personal best time of 4h 30m.

He first became involved in cycling four years ago when a few workmates decided to train for the Lake Taupo Challenge and he has kept it up ever since.

"It's a good social sport," he said. "You go in a group and you can talk to each other as you ride."

Mr Tapper said his family and his co-workers at Candy Gillespie had been supportive in allowing him time to train for the event.

"It's a big sacrifice they are making for me."

Fundraising will continue right up to the day of the event and Mr Tapper says that "every little bit counts"

- To support Mr Tapper and @Heart you can make a donation online at everydayhero.co.nz/heath_tapper or in person at Candy Gillespie on Arawa St.

Matamata Chronicle