Fundraiser soggy but successful
Neither rain, nor sleet, nor hail, nor snow would stop Canmore’s Mountain Grannies from embarking on their third annual Stride to Turn the Tide fundraising walk.
In the end however, last Saturday’s exceptionally generous June snowfall did cause the group to cancel its plans to hike the steep trail to the summit of Ha Ling Peak.
But despite the challenges of the late Rockies spring season, more than 60 grandmothers and ‘grandothers’ gathered on Sunday, June 10, to walk a half-hour circuit along downtown trails (longer routes were cancelled due to high water), all in the name of showing solidarity and raising money for grandmothers in sub-Saharan Africa forced to raise their grandchildren left orphaned by AIDS/HIV.
The Canmore event was one of dozens planned in communities across the country over the weekend as part of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. In 2011, the Canmore Grannies raised more than $16,500. This year’s national fundraising goal is $1 million.
In addition to the organized walk, Sunday’s gathering featured information booths, T-shirts, African crafts and talks by grandmothers who have volunteered in African villages and orphanages.
“This day is about fundraising, but it’s also about raising awareness and solidarity,” said Marilyn Wilson, 2012 chair of the Canmore event. “We’re doing this in questionable June weather for an hour, but these women are looking after their grandchildren every day. I think we’re so fortunate. We have a wonderful life and lifestyle in Canmore and Canada in general. This is a way to give back, to honour these amazing women who don’t have a choice.”
Wilson, who has four grandchildren, said she knew she wanted to join the group before she even moved here from Edmonton. Inspired by a newspaper article about another Canmore Grannie, Beryl Park, Wilson visited Africa several years ago to hike up Mount Kilimanjaro. While she did not make it to the summit, she was inspired nonetheless by the courage of the women there.
“When I moved to Canmore, I knew I wanted to be a Grannie,” Wilson said. “When grandmothers in Africa hear that grandmothers on the other side of the ocean are gathering to help them, it gives them hope. They find it inspiring to know people care from so far away.”
Indeed, agreed Canmore Grannie Joyce MacLeod, who is awaiting the birth of her second grandchild. MacLeod visited Uganda in January with 15 others from across Canada, including fellow Canmorite Nel Keith.
During their two week stay MacLeod and Keith participated in various volunteer activities, including helping distribute breakfast meals and helping out at a rural health clinic and at a rehab centre where they worked with children with disabilities.
“Everywhere we went, we tried to play with children,” MacLeod said. “At one place we visited a group of grannies, and there were 60 of them singing and dancing and drumming dressed in all their finery. They fed us all. It was just an amazing day.”
Among its projects, the SLF is helping build two group homes for women who are afraid to sleep in their own homes for fear they will collapse on them. The foundation is also helping grandmothers raise farm animals and plant vegetable gardens. It also helps provide money to pay the $8 per child necessary to purchase a school uniform, without which admission is denied.
MacLeod and the others spent one day distributing “family kits” consisting of a mattress, mosquito net, cooking pot, plastic wash basin, large bar of soap and jerry can for hauling water.
“All of these grandmothers have to travel long distances for water,” MacLeod said. “This trip really taught me to appreciate the little things in life, and to appreciate different cultures. As much as we witnessed what we think are deplorable conditions, these people are happy with the little bit they have. We could really survive with much less than we think we need.”
As such, every donation made in Canadian dollars goes a long way, she added.
“A small donation or investment from us will have huge impact on these families.”
The Canmore community should be commended for its generosity, Wilson said, adding she was grateful that Town staff phoned the group to ensure their walking route for Sunday would be safe from the floodwaters.
“This town is an amazing place,” Wilson said. “So many people and businesses and groups step up when asked. They are so willing to provide. It’s a very special component of Canmore.”
To learn more visit www.stephenlewisfoundation.org
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