Climbing a mountain to fight a deadly disease. That’s what Fons Groenendijk and Peter Leeuwenburgh are doing this week in the French Alps. Ajax A1’s coach and keeper are participating in the Alpe D’HuZes, an annual benefit in the fight against cancer.
“It’s a fight that’s not even a fight. With a fight, you have a chance of winning. My father never had a chance to win this fight.” With these words, Peter Leeuwenburgh reports to the foot of the steepest mountain in France, the Alpe D’Huez, on Wednesday morning. From there, he’ll clim to the top of the mountain, to 1860 meters high. Not on a bike, like the riders in the Tour de France, but by foot. A difficult test, but Ajax A1’s 18 year old keeper is determined to reach the top. And when he gets tired, he’ll think of his father, who died in June last year due to cancer. He’s going up for him, and for others who have been affected by this disease.
Leeuwenburgh is one of the thousands of people who will be climbing the mountain on Wednesday and Thursday. They’re doing it with the Alpe D’HuZes. In this organization, which has been in existence since 2006, participants collect money which will be donated to the fight against cancer. Often, they are people who have lost loved ones to the disease. They get sponsored by people around them and climb the mountain in return.
While Leeuwenburgh will make the climb by foot, his coach, Fons Groenendijk, will do it one day later on a bicycle. The coach, who takes over Jong Ajax next season, has been training fort his difficult feat for weeks. “I’m a runner by nature, so I had to ride a lot. I’m sometimes on the road for three hours on my morning off.”
The coach will climb the mountain with six of his acquaintances. After one of them had hatched the plan to take part, he decided to take on the challenge. “I immediately went to look for sponsors. If you do it, you need to do it properly”, says Groenendijk, who has raised 4.000 euro in sponsorships. His reason for doing it is clear: to combat a disease that claims over 40 thousand lives per year. “I’ve experienced it around me. It’s necessary to have enough money to find new treatments. I’m happy to support that.”
Just like Groenendijk, keeper Leeuwenburgh is taking part with a team. ‘Team Leeuwenburgh’ consists of him and his mother, brother, sister and uncle. In total, they’ve raised 1.600 euro. Several of his fellow students at the Johan Cruijff University – where he studies sports marketing – are supporting him and his family. “The contributions aren’t huge, but the fact that students, who are relatively poor, contribute at all is amazing.”
Leeuwenburg is thus climbing the mountain on foot. Due to the intensive training with Ajax, he didn’t have time to prepare for a bicycle ride to the top. “I’m going to try to run for as long as I can manage. If that doesn’t work, I’m going to switch to walking. But one thing is certain: I’m going to reach the top.”