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A Little Optimism Goes a Long Way

A Little Optimism Goes a Long Way

Mar 2016

Cape Town father, big wave surfer and open heart surgery survivor Greg Bertish, plans to go where no sail boat its size has ever gone before to raise funds for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust. 

The 200km voyage from Cape Hanglklip across False Bay, around Cape Point to Langebaan Lagoon on the West Coast, will be a mammoth undertaking for the tiny 8ft, single-handed children’s sailing dinghy, referred to as an Optimist. The sailboat is more commonly used by children under the age of 15 weighing no more than 50kgs.  

45 year old Bertish plans to launch the Little Optimist in what he expects will be a calm weather window between mid-March and the 30th of April. The biggest challenge will come when rounding Cape Point where winds are known to gust up to 100km p/h. Ground crew and the NSRI will keep a close eye on Bertish and with the use of a VHF radio, two cell phones and NSRI’s new Safe Trx cell phone app, the trip should take no more than seven days. Bertish plans to overnight on route along the coast.

The reason behind Bertish’s intrepid adventure is to inspire hope in sick children everywhere. At the age of 31 and 37, he underwent open heart surgery to remove an undiagnosed tropical bacteria that attacked his aortic valve. It took a year of rehabilitation for him to recover from both surgeries, only to have the infection return again for a third time resulting in him having to spend 12 weeks on IV treatment in hospital, which finally ended up destroying the bacteria. The ordeal was life changing for Bertish. He still rides big waves and has been National SUP and Lifesaving Champion as a Heart Surgery survivor.  Now he wants to inspire and give back. 

“Too many sick and poor children fight for their lives on a daily basis without believing they can recover and actually go on to living a healthy normal life. I want to give the kids something to believe in. I know me as an adult would have helped me as a kid, to believe in myself sooner, dream bigger and reach for more. I believe I can do this for thousands of sick and needy kids,” says Bertish. 

The 200 kilometres and R200 000 he plans to raise through his adventure are symbolic of the 200 days he spent in hospital between 2001 and 2007. “It’s not about the speed and how fast my Little Optimist gets there, as most say he will fail. It’s about trying and believing in yourself enough to know you can succeed or recover from anything.” 

The money will go to the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust to assist them in building a new Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, saving the lives of thousands of critically ill or injured children. 

Thanks to the donations of friends and family and corporate sponsors like Warwick Wealth, The Little Optimist is expected to launch between 15 March and the 30th of April 2016. If you wish to contribute to building the Hospital’s new PICU through Greg’s campaign you can visit or follow him on Facebook or Twitter @gregbertish.

About Greg Bertish 

Greg Bertish is an ocean lover, humanitarian and father of two from Cape Town. He is also an open heart surgery and endocarditis survivor. Between 2001 and 2007, Greg spent a total of 200 days in hospital fighting an undiagnosed and incurable tropical bacteria that attacked his heart valves on three separate occasions. Greg has always been incredibly active. From a very young age he learnt to surf and sail and went onto compete in lifesaving and eventually represented SA at the World Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) Championships. Nine years later Greg’s infection remains in remission and he now dedicates his time to inspiring hope in young children facing and recovering from dread diseases, operations and hardships. He set up and manages a website called and continues to work with the Children’s Hospital Trust and Red Cross Hospital to raise funds and awareness. Greg is also the founder of the Sharkspotters initiative started in Cape Town in 2004 and currently serves as the President of the Clifton Surf Lifesaving Club.,

More about Little Optimist

Bertish has written an animated children’s book called The Little Optimist, which he hopes will inspire kids to achieve their dreams. Profits from book, on sale from November this year, will be donated to the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust. He hopes the books will inspire, teach life lessons, water safety, and ocean conservation. Further down the line Bertish foresees an annual Great Optimist Race and a sailing programme for sick children to raise even more funds, create a passion and inspire hope.

About the Red Cross Children’s Hospital 

The Hospital holds the largest PICU in Africa. Children in need of specialised critical care are referred from all over the continent, yet this vital unit only has 22 of the 26 ICU beds set aside for children across public and private sectors in the Western Cape Province. This facility also provides emergency care for little patients from around South Africa as well as other African countries.

This PICU is in serious need of an upgrade and expansion to increase bed capacity, develop a high care unit for neonatal patients as well as establish isolation cubicles. The high care unit and the isolation cubicles will ensure optimal treatment through better infection control, which is critical in ICU. Increased capacity will also mean a comfortable space for overworked staff and anxious parents.

Nightjar Travel