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.


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