The Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team is wheeling its way down Island after the team got off to an early start Monday accompanied by some of the first rain clouds it has encountered since the team began its journey down the Island.
Tour de Rock is an annual 1,100-kilometre cycling tour by police, firefighters, ambulance paramedics and guest riders to raise money to fight paediatric cancer and to send children with cancer and their families to Camp Goodtimes, a summer camp for child cancer patients in Maple Ridge.
The Tour de Rock team visited several schools and businesses and stopped for a lunch hosted by Thrifty Foods in Port Place shopping centre.
The team arrived in Nanaimo on Sunday to attend a red serge fundraiser gala at the Coast Bastion Hotel where silent and live auctions, games and raffles raised $17,000, according to early tallies.
Nanaimo RCMP constable Shane Coubrough and auxiliary constable Trevor Nettleton represent Nanaimo on the team this year and both men said the ride, so far, has been a rewarding and emotional journey.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” Coubrough said. “I can see why it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I don’t think I could handle doing this a second time. It’s just incredible.”
Coubrough said the physical aspects of the ride have been easy. The team enjoyed sunny fall weather until encountering light rain on the weekend and the only minor mishap Coubrough has had on the road happened during a stop in Campbell River when he failed to free his shoe from his pedal clip quickly enough and he fell over on his bike.
“I knew the emotional part would be the hard struggle, especially when you get to the communities you’ve been to and you have that connection to … every stop, you meet somebody that’s been affected by childhood cancer.”
During a roadside stop for lunch on the way to Ucluelet, a woman from California told Coubrough the story about her two-year-old grandson’s battle with cancer and then made a donation.
“It’s those connections, those journeys, that make it all worthwhile … It’s incredible how people come together to fight this cause,” Coubrough said.
Trevor Nettleton said the experience of the ride, so far, has been beyond what he anticipated.
“It’s enough when we have our junior riders and when we have friends or family that we know, but when actually go out and you see the people, how what we’re doing directly affects them –whether they’ve had kids that have gone or friends, or family that have gone, to Camp Goodtimes, or others who have been affected and the treatments they’ve received have helped them get through it a lot easier – talking to those people just brings it all together and brings it home to what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Nettleton said.
The hardest physical part of the ride so far is a toss-up, he said. The distance that had to be covered from Port McNeill to Sayward on the second day of the tour was daunting, but the many hills, ruts and potholes on the route from Port Alberni to Ucluelet made that leg of the journey slightly tougher.
The generosity of several communities stood out for him too, especially the events and dinners hosted by some of the Island’s smallest communities, such as Port Alice, Sayward and Woss.
“Sayward was a huge one,” he said. “You go into that community, they’ve got 300 people and they raised $15,000. That’s 10 kids to camp between 300 people. The potluck was amazing. It was just an amazing place to go … The small community of Woss. I mean we went there and they put on a huge smorgasbord for us too, welcomed us in and these are people who are facing potential job losses and stuff, but they’re digging deep to support the cause. Every place has left a little bit in my heart, for sure.”
The team travelled from Nanaimo on Monday afternoon stopping at more schools and businesses on the way to attend a red serge gala fundraising dinner in Ladysmith.