Lil Charles

Lil Charles

Granny trio take on island ride

For Joanne Egan, the impending arrival of a grandchild four years ago kicked off her interest in that continent’s children, and their caregivers.

A trio of local grannies will cycle the Island in support of their African’ counterparts.

For Joanne Egan, the impending arrival of a grandchild four years ago kicked off her interest in that continent’s children, and their caregivers.

“I have a grandson coming from Ethiopia,” Egan explained. “You sit back with an adoption and just wait.”

To fill the void, and need to help, she became a member of ‘Sidney Grandmothers’ officially St. Andrew’s Grandmothers for Africa in Sidney. The group fundraises support for African grandmothers who are the sole caregivers of their grandchildren who have been orphaned due to the AIDS pandemic.

That’s where Egan met Lil Charles, who during her career, worked with AIDS patients.

Egan also roped in fellow Body Barn spin class member Janet Russell.

“I lived in Uganda years ago when AIDS was just getting started,” Russell said.

Now the three will be part of the green swarm of grandmothers and ‘grand others’ to take to the pavement in the Victoria Grandmothers for Africa’s fifth annual Bicycle Tour. The cycling tour covers about 280 kilometres through Courtenay, Qualicum, Parksville, Nanaimo, Ladysmith, Cowichan Bay, and Brentwood Bay before culminating in Victoria on National Grandparent’s Day, Sept. 11.

The four previous tours raised close to $150,000 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, which funds grassroots initiatives in support of African grandmothers who are faced with the task of burying their own children and then raising their HIV/AIDS-orphaned grandchildren.

“When I think of my grandchildren and how privileged they are … and think of (African) grandmothers raising a lot more than two … I’ll pedal my buns off,” said Charles.

All three are new to the three-day ride, and slowly they started training, working up to 100-kilometre rides and tackling killer hills. They’ve criss-crossed Greater Victoria numerous times, covering nearly every inch of the local trails network.

“Your heart has to be in it,” Russell said. “But we can do hills now that we looked at before and thought ‘we’ll never do it’.”

In addition to training for the 100 km/day ride, cyclists pay their own costs to participate in the tour, and they fundraise and gather pledges that are donated to the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Along the route the grandmother and grand-other bicyclists will benefit from the support of various grandmothers groups who will supply them with meals, snacks, cheers and moral support.

The Victoria Grandmothers for Africa’s fifth annual Bicycle Tour starts in Campbell River Sept. 9 and winds up in Victoria, Sept. 11. The tour riders will be greeted by a welcoming party at St. John the Divine Church, 1611 Quadra St. at 3 p.m. on Sept. 11.

Visit http://j.mp/victoriacycle online to sponsor Victoria Grandmothers for Africa cyclists.