– by Joanne Lomax –
Take another look at the groups of cyclists riding the roads and trails throughout the south end of the Island. The bright cycling jerseys may belong to grandmothers and ‘grand others’ training for an annual cycling fundraiser to support African grandmothers who are dedicated to conquering the devastating effects of AIDS in Africa.
This year there will be two ride choices: the traditional 275 km three-day marathon from Campbell River to Victoria, September 11 to 13, and a new more moderate 50 km ride on the trails and roads in Greater Victoria on September 13.
Over its first eight years these hardy women, mainly grandmothers in their retirement years, have raised a total of $436,000. They are hoping in this ninth year with two rides in place, to take the total donations to a cool half million.
Sponsored by the Victoria Grandmothers for Africa and including cyclists from around the Island and a few from the lower mainland, the riders raise money for the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Participants solicit donations from the greater community as well as their friends and relations. To support this worthy cause, go to www.victoriagrandmothersforafrica.ca
The women train for many months and often conquer terrain and distances they never previously thought possible. Pride in their own physical achievement and the compelling needs of the African grandmothers propel them forward. At the same time the riders gain health benefits and a realization of their own strength and courage: certainly a win-win for everyone.
It isn’t only the riders themselves who share the work and joy of the bicycle fundraiser. All eight Island grandmother groups that are located along the cyclists’ route provide meals, snacks and enthusiastic cheers and congratulations as the riders make their way south. This support, in turn, energizes the cyclists to keep on riding and ultimately achieve their goals.
Both rides will end at the legislative grounds between 2.30 and 3 p.m. Sunday September 13. The public is welcome, so plan to come and greet, meet, and cheer the cyclists and be inspired by their courage, tenacity and perseverance.