In 2022, the South African native harnessed his outstanding willpower and embarked on a life-altering adventure in support of Operation Smile. This adventure involved a man, a bicycle and the open road, as Dan traveled 3,500 kilometers through Europe, a journey which lasted a total of seven weeks. Dan was inspired to do something different with his life as the effects of the pandemic had left him feeling aimless, so he purchased a bicycle and began training for this arduous trek from Copenhagen, Denmark to Rome, Italy.
“The pandemic was obviously quite a difficult time for everybody, and I wanted to bring some positive change,” Dan said. “I wanted to do something outside of myself to improve my own life, the lives of the people around me and the lives of the patients that Operation Smile helps.”
Dan’s journey through Europe was no easy feat, but the hope of helping children in low- and middle-income countries receive the comprehensive care and cleft surgery they need and deserve was more than enough to motivate Dan on this unique expedition. Dan completed his Smile Cycle in Europe in seven weeks, just 48 hours shy of his Visa expiring and his return flight date. At the end of his journey, Dan raised R134 000 ($7,176.62 USD) which transformed the lives of more than 20 patients through surgery, giving them the gift of a new smile and better access to care.
“The best part about it was the money that was raised by everyone who was watching me,” Dan said about his European Smile Cycle. “It was a beautiful experience. It was challenging, but it was really incredible. I honestly feel like I’ve come back more open-minded, more patient, more empathetic towards people.”
When Dan returned home to South Africa last year, he visited an Operation Smile surgical program in Mpumalanga and had the privilege of witnessing the impact of the life-changing surgeries he had spent weeks supporting. The overwhelming hope and inspiration he experienced during his visit at Operation Smile South Africa encouraged Dan to embark on another harrowing cycling journey, this time down the west coast of the United States.
“What an amazing experience,” Dan said when reflecting upon his time at Operation Smile South Africa. “You get to meet the kids who without Operation Smile’s help would never be able to live a normal life. And what Operation Smile brings to them and what people like you and I can do to help is changing a life that is so tangible, their changes are so drastic, and it changes not only their child’s life but the lives of the family and their school and their community. The amount of help that this charity does in the community is absolutely amazing.”
This year, Dan tackled North America, starting at the Canadian border, snaking down the Pacific coast of the United States and ending his tour in Mexico. Dan embarked on his North American Smile Cycle on June 21 and finished on July 16, 2023. He rode more than 3,000 km!
“For me, I am not a doctor, and I am not a nurse, and I can’t really do anything physically to help, but I can ride a bicycle, and I can go on an adventure and that’s exactly what I did last year and that’s what I am going to do again this year,” said Dan. These extreme adventures are tough on the mind, body and spirit, but most importantly, they serve as a testament to the lengths a passionate individual is willing to go in support of those in need. Dan and other Operation Smile supporters and volunteers are the life force of the organization, and Dan’s story proves that there are infinite innovative ways to show up and support a great cause.
You can support Dan’s journey at https://bit.ly/3JFQwXw