Dalan Holton, a 49-year-old director at Debella Finance from Morningside, Sandton, embarked on an extraordinary journey as he approached his 50th birthday on March 1, 2024.
Unlike the typical ‘midlife crisis,’ Dalan joked, which might have led one to indulge in luxury or travel, he had set his sights on a challenge that was as symbolic as it was daunting—the swim through the shark-infested waters from Robben Island to the mainland at Bloubergstrand. This endeavor was not for personal glory but for a cause close to his heart.
“Before you questioned my sanity, let me assure you there was a method to my madness. This aquatic adventure wasn’t just about proving that I’ve still got it at 50. It was about something much bigger. I was raising funds on BackaBuddy for the Daniel Lopes Memorial Scholarship,” said Dalan.
The Daniel Lopes Memorial Scholarship
During his formative years at King Edward VII School (KES), one of Johannesburg’s finest academic institutions, Dalan forged a lasting friendship with Antonio Lopes. They were in the same graduating class, swam on the same team, and remained good friends for years. Years later, when Antonio’s son, Daniel, tragically passed away at the age of 12 in a freak accident on December 15th, 2018, it left a void in the hearts of those who knew him.
In his honor, the Daniel Lopes Memorial Scholarship was founded. Known for his “grit,” hard work, and determination, Daniel excelled in academics and sports, embodying the spirit of perseverance. The Scholarship was established to support students facing financial hardships, ensuring that they could benefit from the rich educational and extracurricular offerings at KES.
To raise funds for the DLMS, Dalan launched a crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy, aiming to hit a target of R50,000. The campaign already made a splash, raising R36,000 with the support of 27 donors.
The funds assisted two deserving students by covering 50% of their tuition fees at KES, payable for their entire high school career, offering them the opportunity to thrive in an environment that nurtures academic and personal growth.
The scholarship not only offered financial support but also encompassed emotional, social, and academic guidance through the TAG Foundation.
“I felt that attending a school like KES offered an unparalleled opportunity, and it would have been tragic for anyone to miss out due to financial constraints. The value lay not just in the education but in the whole experience that KES provided. I would have loved to be able to provide this launchpad and experience to others,” said Dalan.
The Robben Island swim
The Robben Island swim, scheduled for February 15th, weather permitting, was more than a physical challenge for Dalan. It was a symbolic passage, representing endurance, hope, and remembrance with every stroke. The swim started at Robben Island, covering a distance of approximately 7.5 kilometers to Bloubergstrand, though currents might have extended this to 8 to 8.5 kilometers.
Despite the unpredictability and daunting aspects of the swim, including cold waters and the potential presence of sharks, Dalan’s preparation and passion fueled his determination. His training, under the guidance of coach Cyndi Starr from Wahoo Aquatics and alongside training partners Andy Johnson and Suzette Prinsloo, had prepared him for that moment.
A Lesson in Laps
Beyond his professional achievements at Debella Finance, Dalan is a devoted family man. Married to Alison, who worked in higher education, and father to a 5-year-old daughter named Evalee, he viewed this challenge as an opportunity to teach her about finding passion and helping others.
“Dalan shared, “Be active and push yourself. Find something you love and then excel at it, stretching yourself but finding joy in the process every step of the way. If you can find a way for the thing you love and are good at to add value to other people’s lives—do that!”
His active lifestyle, which included competitive swimming, racing cars, and practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, for which he had a black belt, reflected his dedication to personal excellence and commitment to contributing to the community.
Dalan wants to thank the donors who, through their generous contributions on BackaBuddy, had wished him “Good tides” and “smooth currents” on his chilly swim. As his challenge approached, Dalan was empowered by Daniel Lopes’ legacy and the scholarship in his name, which would have had a profound and lasting impact on the future of two deserving students who got to experience the education and camaraderie KES provides.
Donate to this campaign on BackaBuddy: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/daniel-lopes-memorial-scholarship-5824967004013241637
Alternatively, donate via SnapScan: https://pos.snapscan.io/qr/Dalan_Holton
All donations made to this cause qualify for a Section 18A tax deduction.
I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to every donor. Your generosity has not only honored Daniel’s memory but has also opened doors for deserving students at King Edward VII School facing financial hardships. This achievement reaffirms a powerful message: with commitment and a clear goal, anything is achievable.
As I reflect on the exhilarating and 7.5km swim from Robben Island to Bloubergstrand, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and pride. Not just for completing this personal milestone just before I turn 50, but for the incredible support and generosity that has poured in. Together, we’ve surpassed our initial goal of R50,000, raising an astonishing R65,000 for the Daniel Lopes Memorial Scholarship.
Special thanks must be given to Daniel’s father, Antonio Lopes, whose presence at both the start and finish of the swim added a profoundly personal touch to the event. This swim was more than just a physical challenge; it was a testament to what we can accomplish when we band together for a noble cause. Let’s continue to support and inspire one another, proving that the spirit of community and determination can make waves of change.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being part of this memorable journey.
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