Barbara Halparin writes about her experience of riding in the Greater Van Gogos’ sixth annual Solidarity Cycle, a fundraising event in support of the Stephen Lewis Foundation Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. (photo from Tikun Olam Gogos)
On Sunday, Sept. 11, Grandparents Day, Greater Van Gogos held their sixth annual Solidarity Cycle, a fundraising event in support of the Stephen Lewis Foundation Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.
The Grandmothers campaign was initiated in 2006 by the Stephen Lewis Foundation in response to the AIDS pandemic and the emerging crisis faced by grandmothers in Africa, as they struggled to raise millions of children orphaned by AIDS. Grandmothers and “grand-others” across Canada rallied together to raise funds and offer support to their African counterparts and we continue to this day. Our motto is “we will not rest until African grandmothers can rest.”
Tikun Olam Gogos (gogo is a Zulu word for grandmother), affiliated with Temple Sholom, is one of 11 groups within Greater Van Gogos who participated in the event. After the cycle, one of our enthusiastic participants, Barbara Halparin, shared her experience in a letter to her sponsors, which eloquently expresses the sentiments of the day…. Barbara is in her mid-70s and “Baba” to eight grandchildren.
We thought you might like to share Barbara’s letter as human-interest story and a wonderful example of tikkun olam. We hope other members of the Jewish community are moved to donate to the event, slf.akaraisin.com, and/or to join the cycle ride next year, solidaritycycle.weebly.com.
Co-chair, Solidarity Cycle, and member of Tikun Olam Gogos
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Our sixth Solidarity Cycle, and this year we had it all: rain (OK, a light 20-minute sprinkle), wildfire smoke (ecru-hazed mountains but a sky still blue-ish), heat (a high of 29 degrees) and even a bear.
We had a great new route to cycle, too, one that took us across rustic wooden bridges and loooong, high suspension spans, through tunnels and underpasses, past two local airports, skirting parks, acres of blueberries and corn, suburbs, farms, swampland lush with bulrushes. What an awesome ride! Even through viscous air the magnificence of the Fraser Valley was clear.
We started out from the home of Kyler and Cari in Pitt Meadows, and were soon pedaling across the Pitt River Bridge into Coquitlam. We rode the first 50 kilometres along hard-packed dike paths bordering the river. I had one brief moment of terror when out of nowhere a shot rang out at close range. Was it duck hunting season? Was someone shooting cyclists for sport? We had been warned of bears in the area and another rider and I ultimately decided someone must have fired off a “bear scare.” I found out later that Marty, who was riding sweep, came along shortly thereafter to find himself wheel-to-face with a black bear squatting smack in the middle of the dike.
Solidarity Cycle likes to include a free “adventure.”
We tackled the Pitt River Bridge again and looped back to our point of origin for lunch (healthy, delicious and very welcome), and the news that the air-quality advisory had worsened since morning. A number of cyclists chose to defer the rest of their ride for a clearer day, an option that Janine and Darcy, our safety-wise coordinators, always offer. But the temperature was hovering around 25 with a lilting breeze and, since my lungs didn’t feel like I’d just smoked a pack, I decided to go for it. Besides, if I left, I’d miss dinner.
So on to Fort Langley, via the Golden Ears Bridge. Now there’s a challenge: long on-ramp, longer, steeper climb to the highpoint, big vehicles pounding the deck, and a tight spiral exit ramp. So fun! We left hard-pack trails for the relief of pavement, dotted with occasional roundabouts designed to confuse, spectacular open country through gently rolling terrain and, finally, charming Fort Langley, where the best treat awaited: Joyce and Marie serving up fresh chilled water and ice cream bars, as they welcomed us with shofar blasts.
Sho far, sho good.
Twenty kilometres to go, and I am a horse who knows the barn door has opened and the hayrack is full. We retrace our route, even more stunning in its familiarity. Suddenly out of the haze looms the Golden Ears Bridge. Whoever told me it was easier on the way back, could we please have a word? But then I am over it – I own this bridge! The last five kilometres are a breeze, and I find myself thinking I’m not ready for the ride to end. But it must, and the celebration kicks in with beer, burgers and gusto.
I can describe the scenery well enough, but the feelings generated by the day and the reasons for it are quite another thing. As I write this today – the day after – my smile is wide, as texts and emails fly back and forth. I recall the pure joy on dusty faces, the urge to hug everyone, the over and over “Thank you!” “You are amazing!” “What a day!” It feels like my heart is swelling.
Perhaps best of all is the news that we are within a few dollars of reaching our goal of $50,000, and knowing that we will crest that hill momentarily. And, for this, the credit goes straight to you, my steadfast sponsors. More than 60 generous, loving people rode my handlebars for 100 kilometres. Far from weighing me down, you fueled me in ways you may not imagine. You are the power, and you are the difference in the lives of millions. Those millions also ride with me, and I think – I know – you feel their presence, too.
P.S. If you should be feeling left out, if you had every intention of giving your support and life somehow got in the way, it is not too late! The fundraising link will remain open until December. Just Google Solidarity Cycle 2022, click “donate” and claim your rightful share of the joy.
I’m gratified to have surpassed my personal fundraising goal, and I would love to be able to set my sights higher next year. You can make it happen. You can be a difference.
Again, my grateful thanks.