As the garage door closed behind me, I was about to turn off the ignition when something Anele said on 94.7 tweaked my interest. I spent the next ten minutes intently listening to a brief chat between Anele and philanthropist Carolyn Steyn. Carolyn enthusiastically elaborated on “67 Blankets”, an initiative that started in December 2013, when Zelda la Grange, Nelson Mandela’s trusted assistant, presented Carolyn with a challenge to knit or crochet 67 blankets to be distributed to those in need on Nelson Mandela Day.
This year it was Carolyn’s vision to see 21 thousand blankets knitted or crocheted before the 21st April to celebrate the 21st anniversary of our democracy on the 27th April. It was her intention to see these 21 thousand blankets laid out at the feet of Nelson Mandela’s statue on the front lawns of the Union Buildings. It was when Anele joked about sponsoring a helicopter to film this spectacle from the air that the light bulb in my head went off… MCC Aviation steps in!
After weeks of organisation, collaborating with Carolyn, The Nelson Mandela Foundation, Peter Morey (The official photographer for the event) and Richard Noseworthy (The videographer assigned to the task), there was a buzz amongst MCC Aviation staff and crew on the morning of 21st as we prepared for the “big shoot”. Mike Barnes himself elected to be the pilot for the special flight. Along with Claude Oberholzer, our in house helicopter pilot and new business developer and myself, we flew our signature Bell 407 ZS-RZG to Little Company of Mary Hospital who kindly agreed to allow us to use their helipad as a pick-up and drop-off zone close to the Union Buildings to collect Peter and Richard.
What awaited us at the Union Buildings was breathtaking!! It was more than simply a visual spectacle, as 21 thousand blankets sown together, strewn across the terraced lawns of The Union Buildings at Nelson Mandela’s feet evoked an incredible sense of emotion and gratitude. Gratitude for all those hands that contributed to the making of the blankets, gratitude to those citizens of South Africa who care, gratitude for Madiba himself who inspired such goodwill and gratitude for being a part of this beautiful Nation. I took a moment to recognise the privilege of witnessing this scene from our unique aerial vantage point and for the opportunity to facilitate in ensuring these images were captured.
MCC Aviation once again followed their convictions as proud South Africans and are proud to have contributed in however small a way to making a positive difference. We challenge all contemporaries in the aviation fraternity to participate by giving 67 minutes of their time on Nelson Mandela Day on the 18th July 2015 to contribute to making South Africa a better country for all.