This Grandparents Day – September 11, 2022 – celebrate your grandma and grandpa with extra hugs, then get out there on your bike to support a group of grandmas who are 8,000 miles away.
By signing up for Solidarity Cycle, the annual fundraiser of the Royal City Gogos – a New Westminster-based grandmothers’ group that supports African grandmothers caring for children orphaned by AIDS – you can help someone one in need on another continent, while enjoying a leisurely ride.
Good deal, right? It gets softer.
“Our cyclists say it’s the only race where you gain weight at the end,” said Janine Reid, who founded Royal City Gogos in 2009.
“We start them [the participants] with a breakfast, and we meet them at mile 25 for, usually, watermelon, an energy bar, water, that sort of thing.
This is followed by lunch (which will be served this year by Green’s and Beans Deli), ice cream and an evening BBQ.
“At each of these stops, various groups of grandmas from across our region will show up with homemade food and their pom poms,” Reid added.
What’s different at Solidarity Cycle this year?
Royal City Gogos (Gogo means grandmother in Zulu, a language spoken in Southern Africa) started Solidarity Cycle six years ago as a 100km cycling event from White Rock to Chilliwack. Today, the event draws attendees from cities outside of New West, including North Vancouver, Tsawwassen, Vancouver, and more.
This year, according to the event website, the ride will start at 13479 Sharpe Rd. in Pitt Meadows.
The 100 km hike will be divided into two segments: a 50 km loop in the morning and a different 50 km loop in the afternoon, starting and ending on Sharpe Road. “Imagine a number 8,” reads the description on the website, referring to the hiking path.
Participants can choose to complete the entire 100 km distance or complete a 50 km loop.
Even those who don’t want to engage remotely can still register.
“This year is the first time we’ve offered people who would choose to walk their own distance and come with younger kids if they want to,” Reid said.
With approximately 30 cyclists participating each year, the event has raised a total of $240,000 so far, or approximately $50,000 per year.
The funds go to the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign which supports community projects in 15 African countries. Royal City Gogos is one of about twenty local groups registered with the foundation and forms a large network called Greater Van Gogos.
The foundation has in the past brought African grandmothers to meet grandmothers in Canada who are part of the foundation’s international grandmothers movement and has also invited selected candidates from Canada to attend gatherings in Africa.
By attending a gathering of grandmothers in Africa
Reid was among 40 candidates selected to be part of a gathering of 500 grandmothers from 14 African countries in Swaziland (now called Eswatini) in 2010.
“It was really memorable,” Reid said.
“At that time, they [the African grandmothers] did not know each other. Each grandmother was isolated and unaware that there were hundreds and thousands of women like them, raising some 18 million orphaned children.
Reid added, “And so they came together to understand the benefits given by the governments of other countries, to form political action groups, the right to push for the changes they needed…”
So, has their situation improved over the years?
“I would have said, yes – definitely,” Reid said. “However, the war in Ukraine will disrupt the food chain in Africa, and it will exacerbate famine and poverty and create situations where AIDS can thrive.”
But the group hopes to do its part with fundraisers like the Solidarity Cycle (in addition to craft fairs and walks throughout the year), which you can also participate in. From her past experience as an organizer, Reid guaranteed it would be “a wonderful day”.
“The excitement and adrenaline are high both for the grandmothers who come to cheer and take care of the day, and also for the cyclists.”
Those who wish to participate in the Solidarity Cycle event on September 11, 2022 can start training this week. Volunteers from Royal City Gogos will provide training on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings; the meeting point is Queen’s Park Arena.
For more details and to register, visit Solidarity Cycle website. The fee is $50 for new riders and $35 if you have ridden before.