Victoria Grandmothers for Africa are hopping on their bikes again for a charity ride from Campbell River to Victoria.
The group of 30 women 55 years and older – the number is capped to ensure safety on the roads and that they can find accommodation along the route – will ride 275 kilometres between Sept. 9 to 11 to raise money for grandmothers in Africa. The campaign is run by the Stephen Lewis Foundation and supports women raising orphaned children whose parents died from HIV/AIDS.
“Our jobs is to raise funds and their job is to raise children,” said Lisbie Rae, 78, a spokesperson for the Victoria group and a longtime volunteer and participant in the rides.
Rae got involved with the organization in 2007 after hearing a speech by Lewis. She started volunteering in Hamilton, and upon moving to Victoria in 2015 hopped on her bike and began riding, gradually at first. Rather than jumping straight in with the long ride, she did a 50-kilometre ride on the Saanich Peninsula.
“I decided I better be smart, rather than ambitious,” Rae said.
Able to manage that effort, she decided the following year to train for the full ride and has been doing it ever since – although it’s always still a challenge.
“Yesterday we did about 82 (kilometres). Next week, we’re doing two in a row, Monday and Tuesday, and they’re both over 90. So having done that, if you can do that, then you can do the Campbell River ride. So call me next week,” Rae said, laughing.
“They’re a very supportive team. Some of them are elite cyclists, all 55 years and older. Many of us are in our 70s and some of the people who are doing the months-long tour are in their 80s. So it’s a pretty remarkable, supportive community of older women cyclists.”
The group is also organizing and seeking participants for a virtual ride happening Aug. 13 to Sept. 9, with riders able to set their own distance goals and ride when they can. A wait list exists for the Campbell River ride.
In 2020 the group raised $147,000 and Rae hopes they’ll be able to beat that this year.