A Second Grand Départ – In Canada this time

As The Tour De France draws to a close with a 116km ‘procession’ on the flat to the Champs-Élysées, a group of amateur cyclists will be setting off from Toronto to cycle 600km to Montreal to raise funds for Toronto People With AIDS Foundation (PWA).

The Bike Rally, now in it’s 20th year, is the sustaining fundraiser for PWA, supporting its ability to provide critical services and support to individuals living with HIV/AIDS in Toronto. In that time 3800 people have been involved as cyclists and crew and the rally has raised over $15 million dollars for PWA.

I am familiar with this epic undertaking thanks to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka the Yarn Harlot, who has ridden and fundraised for PWA through the bike rally since 2012.  Over the years she has raised the profile of this organisation and a ton of money for their work. She has mobilised the collective goodwill of knitters to make a difference in a very tangible way. Throughout this, and via her blog more generally, Stephanie has shared her world view and in my mind our world is a better place for it.

If anyone has any doubt what the Bike rally means to it’s participants beyond the basic statistics, you may want to read the following round up posts:

2012     2013      2014     2015     2016     2017

If you want to know what it means to Stephanie to be participating this year, after what’s been a difficult year for her to say the least, then this is a good post to dip into.

Women cyclists have come a long way from the world of Bikes and Bloomers  both literally and figuratively, but I wanted to highlight one of Stephanie’s reason’s for taking part in the Bike rally this year. This extract is from the last post linked above – if you clicked on the link you’ll have read it, if not, I really want you to, so here it is in Stephanie’s words:

I care a lot about everyone who this issue matters to – we all have our own reasons, and everyone we know who is  HIV+ has their own stories, but it has always been true that vulnerability increases the risk, and women are particularly vulnerable, mostly because they have less of the things that are statistically protective (money, education, power, sexual freedom, access to healthcare) and more of the things that put you at risk. (Stigma, violence, poverty.) Women are simply less able to protect themselves, and that’s scary. I’ve been going down to PWA every week or so, and the place is full of women (and their kids). About 25% of their clientele, which makes absolute sense.

There’s this one woman – I’ve heard her speak a few times about her story and how she came to be a client of PWA, and that story involves surviving genocide, rape, poverty, and the death of her husband and a great deal of her family, followed by the birth of a child who was the product of that violence, and is also HIV positive. She came to Canada as a refugee, and PWA has been her everything. She credits them with saving her life, and the life of her child. This year, she, and the mother who taught me to care about that, are the reason I’m getting on my bike, even though it will be very hard.

(From  Antivenom, a blog post by Stephanie Pear McPhee , 8/6/18)


In previous years I’ve done what I could to raise funds, notably in 2015 I too mobilised other knitters to raise £295 through various activities outlined in this post.

This year, to celebrate Stephanie’s 50th Birthday – I raided my modest paypal account following a bit of an eBay blitz and I donated a prize for Karmic Balancing; an electronic download of my Anglebury Cowl Pattern along with a 100g skein of John Arbon Viola Yarn, for which it was designed, in the ‘Unpredictable’ colour way. Viola is a DK yarn, spun from Organic Merino here in the UK by John Arborn, in colours designed by Canadian hand-dyer, Emily Foden (see what I did there!). It knits up beautifully in my cowl with the spin and twist of the yarn supporting the sculptural  design: 

The idea behind Karmic Balancing gifts is that anyone who’s helped in any way that they can contact Stephanie to let her know and is edible to receive a knitterly (or spinnerly) gift from someone else who wants to help. As Stephanie explains:

It’s going to be all about the Karma – just like we try to make it every year. We’re trying to change lives here, make things better for some people, and there’s so much more to that than money, so, here’s the thing. If you donate to anyone on our little family team then please send me an email letting me know you’ve done so.

Now, we know not everyone has money to help with – so we’re taking all kinds of help.  If you can figure out some other way to do that, that counts.  Maybe you can tell a friend. Maybe you can post about it to social media. Maybe you can forward the email to people in your family who will give…  There’s lots and lots of ways to help, and if you can figure out a way? Send that email, letting me know you did. No money needed. (Of course, money is always good too, and even small gifts make a big difference.)

For the email address – if you have’t already, you’ll need to click on the link to Stephanie’s Antivenom post. This post also contains the links to donate to Stephanie and her team mates, Ken, Pato and Cameron.

I hope you can find a way to help out in some way, even if just by sharing this post on your social media or donating the cost of a cup of coffee.

All the best,






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