Nine years have passed since Peter Cheruiyot aka Mr Valentine’s wowed Kenyans when he forked out Sh140,000 to hire a helicopter to deliver flowers to his girlfriend, then a student at Nazarene University.
Although Cheruiyot, 36, eventually broke up with his first love even after that high-flying display of love, he still can’t forget February 14, 2008, the day that brought him fame and criticism in equal measure.
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“My intention was to surprise the girl I was dating but the media blew it out of proportion,” Mr Cheruiyot told The Standard yesterday, the eve of this year’s International Love Day.
He is now married to Joy and the two have a nine-month-old daughter.
“There is still true love out there and people can find it,” Cheruiyot said as he sipped tea at Ole Ken Hotel in Nakuru County, where we met for this interview.
It seems Cheruiyot, who claims he is still on good terms with the woman he took flowers to in a helicopter, has made it a habit to make headlines on Valentine’s Day.
He advises young people planning to celebrate the day with those they love: “Let sincerity count...”
Although he has no elaborate plans for this Valentine’s Day, he is happy that his escapades over the past few years have touched the hearts of many and people still remember him.
In 2010, he spent Valentine’s Day with the Sachangwan fire victims - and once again made headlines for it.
In a newspaper cutting that he still keeps, Cheruiyot is seen posing with a child - one of the victims of the fire tragedy in which 139 people died when a fuel tanker burst into flames.
The following year, 2011, ‘Mr Valentine’s’ stole the show again when he spent the special day with freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi’s widow Mukami Kimathi at her home in Njabini, Nyandarua County.
He delivered flowers, mattresses and other basic needs to Mukami.
“She (Mukami) is among the people who deserve special treatment, especially on days like Valentine’s, which is an international day for people to express their love,” he said as he scrolled through his phone to show me some of the pictures he took that day.
“This woman deserves respect. She was the wife of a freedom fighter who delivered this country from the colonialists. I was very happy to spend that day with her.”
After taking a two-year break, he re-emerged on February 14, 2014, to share the special day with Mama Ngina Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta at the Mama Ngina Children’s Home.
In honour of the two, Cheruiyot gave gifts; each got a goat and a bouquet of flowers.
Cheruiyot has the enviable ability to mingle freely with the high and mighty as well as the downtrodden.
“I network as much as I can. On this particular occasion I knew that Mama Ngina would be visiting the children’s home. I prepared two goats, one for the home and the other for the President’s mother. But I had to organise for another goat after the First Lady confirmed her presence at the last minute,” he explained.
But his plan to deliver flowers to the Queen of England this year has not worked out as he expected.
“I have tried to send letters through the British High Commission in Kenya without much success. No one has responded to my request,” he said, quickly changing the topic to his family.
Cheruiyot recently lost his brother-in-law and that is why he won’t be able to pull a surprise this Valentine’s Day.
The Nakuru County Jubilee Party Secretary General urges Kenyans to use this Valentine’s Day to preach peace and reconciliation after last year’s divisive elections.
“Let young people use this day to learn how to tolerate different political views and embrace each other as brothers and sisters,” he said.
Cheruiyot also advocates for responsible sexual behaviour among youths this Valentine’s Day.