UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Volkmar Bandermann (centre) and the Cross Canada Grandpas ended their journey in St. John's, N.L., in August. (Photo: Ryan Blair)

Grandpa cycles cross-country for reconciliation

The United Church senior raised about $4,000 for the church's Indigenous Healing Fund.

By Mike Milne

When Volkmar Bandermann joined a few friends for a cross-country cycling fundraiser this past summer, he chose the United Church’s Indigenous Healing Fund as his cause. After 80 days and 7,500 kilometres on the road from Victoria to St. John’s, N.L., he added about $4,000 to the fund’s coffers.

Calling themselves the Cross Canada Grandpas, Bandermann, John Greven, Mike Tanner and Elio Zanella — and John Damoiseaux, who joined the entourage when they reached North Bay, Ont. — are all in their 70s. Bandermann, 78, a retired chef from Stratford, Ont., was the eldest. Other charities benefiting from the ride are a palliative care program in Sarnia, Ont., the ALS Society of Canada and a group delivering eco-friendly stoves to Guatemala.

Bandermann and his bicycle were blessed during a send-off from his home church, Avondale United. He also had a smudging ceremony from an Indigenous congregation member. On the way to British Columbia to start the trip, Bandermann stopped at St. Clair United in Aamjiwnaang First Nation near Sarnia, Ont., to visit the congregation’s minister, Brenda Mac Main, and a community monument dedicated to Indigenous children taken to residential schools.

“It’s reassuring to us that there are people outside our own communities who care and who are working with us,” says Mac Main. The Healing Fund, she adds, provides “resources to do the education that needs to be done, first with our own people and then those outside our community.”

Previously, Bandermann had done cycling holidays in Europe and Canada with Greven and their spouses, but the cross-Canada trek was a much bigger commitment. A truck and camping trailer accompanied the group, with a dedicated driver on two sections of the journey.

Bandermann had more than his share of aches and pains, but said he took the trip one day at a time. “Every day brings new experiences,” he says. “You really don’t think, ‘Gosh, so many more days to ride.’ You just prepare yourself for the next day.”

This story first appeared in The Observer's October 2018 edition with the title "United Church senior cycles cross-country for reconciliation."

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!


Indigenous actor and singer Tom Jackson has named his annual Christmas charity concert after the song. (Photo: Craig Koshyk)

6 must-hear recordings of the Huron Carol

by Will Pearson

From a beloved version by Tom Jackson to one translated into Mi’kmaw, Jesous Ahatonnia has been adapted in many creative ways over the years.

Promotional Image


The United Church Observer's editor and publisher, Jocelyn Bell. (Photo: Lindsay Palmer)

Why we pay our interns a fair wage

by Jocelyn Bell

But $15 an hour is only a small step in the right direction.

Promotional Image


Meet beloved church cats Mable and Mouse

by Observer Staff

They're a fixture of Kirk United Church Centre in Edmonton.

Promotional Image


December 2018

The complex history of the Huron Carol

by Will Pearson

A product of 17th-century Jesuit missionaries, the popular hymn was written to introduce the Wendat people to Christianity. The Observer explores its troubled origins and continued use today.


November 2018

Christians should stop using God to sanctify adoption

by Jackie Gillard

This adoptive mom writes that she's frustrated by the common evangelical Christian message that adoption is always the best outcome for a child.


November 2018

Christmas music was meaningless to me, so I started listening to this instead

by Paul Fraumeni

Tunes about snow and chestnuts and silent nights didn't bring the power of the holiday home to this writer, so he found a new soundtrack.

Promotional Image