Our 2013 Warriors registration day started out like any other day. Little did we know that on this day, two families would be introduced and an 8 year-long journey of friendship would begin. The Van Der Kun family had flown all the way from the Netherlands to watch their son Sebastian join the Warriors Gap Year program. As usual, the Viljoen's, who run the Warriors Academy, were ready and waiting to meet all the parents and the new Warriors. The connection between both families was instant and cosmic – we knew that a lifelong friendship was born.
Sebastian completed his gap year, then the following year his cousin Max joined us, followed by Tamara, Flo and shortly after that Maarten, Thomas and Julie joined the program. It's safe to say that the whole family is entrenched in the Warriors way, and we couldn't be more proud to have them as our ambassadors in the Netherlands. As each of the children passed through our doors, the bonds of friendship grew.
In 2015 the unimaginable happened. Ilona was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Throughout this journey, she was the epitome of beauty and grace, right through to the very end. She was a living example of what we try to instil in our Warriors, courageous, passionate, nurturing, kind, an incredible mother, wife and friend. We all felt this loss in the depths of our souls.
During her last days, Ilona expressed a need to do something more. She didn't want to have a large fancy funeral, instead, she wanted the family to contribute to a fund that would allow a deserving young student to participate in the Warriors gap year program. This once again confirmed the Warriors spirit and the heart of this incredible woman.
This gesture touched us profoundly and inspired us to create an NGO called the Warriors Foundation. The foundation aims to provide scholarships for deserving young men and women who might not have the financial needs to pursue the Warriors programs and/or studies thereafter. The first scholarship that we have created is the "Ilona van der Kun" scholarship and aims at celebrating and remembering the beautiful life of Ilona and the impact that she has had on us as a family. This scholarship will ensure that her memory will live on through the experience of others.