The Cops for Cancer’s Tour de Rock team rode into Duncan on Oct. 4 with just about 400 kilometres to go in their 1,200-kilometre bike ride, which is scheduled to end in Victoria on Oct. 7.
The 19 riders, mostly first responders, who are participating this year in the annual fundraiser to support children who are battling cancer rode into the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment on Canada Avenue on a sunny afternoon while members of the Cowichan Valley Dragon Divas’ team held their paddles high in the air over them as a salute.
Aaron Grewal, a member of the Saanich Police Department, said he had trained to be part of the Tour de Rock team in 2020 before the event was cancelled for two years due to the pandemic, but he’s pleased to be participating this year.
He said the welcome the team received in the many Vancouver Island communities they had visited so far in the tour, which began in Port Alice on Sept. 24, has been amazing.
“We have been welcomed with open arms everywhere we sent so far,” Grewal said.
“It’s fantastic to see all the communities come together to help out with the cause. It’s been a life-changing experience for me, but the kids that we’re here to help are the true heroes to me.”
The team was treated to breakfast at the Chemainus Legion hall on the morning of Oct. 4, before heading to Lake Cowichan for lunch at Lake Cowichan School, which was supplied by Country Grocer.
The team also visited a number of schools in the Cowichan Valley before they went to Shawnigan Lake School for a dinner and fundraiser in the evening.
The riders rode south to the Malahat on Wednesday and are expected to end their journey on the steps of the Legislature on Friday.
Simon Douthwaite, the tour’s coordinator, said the riders had hoped to raise $850,000 this year, but they expect to exceed that by Oct. 7 thanks to the efforts and contributions from clubs, organizations and individuals in each community they visited on the long ride.
“It’s been a lot of fun and everyone is having a great time,” said Douthwaite, whose 11-year-old daughter is a leukemia survivor who is now healthy and happy.
Tiffany Parton, from the BC Association of Chiefs of Police, is also taking part in the tour and said it was a great honour and pleasure for her to do so.
“I know a lot of kids who lost their battles with cancer so this is very personal to me and a great experience,” she said.
“It’s been incredible watching it all come together. We’ve been practicing for the tour since March and have been biking between 200 and 300 kilometres a week since then, but I’m still amazed at what we’re doing.”
The story of the Tour de Rock goes back to 1994 in Alberta.
It was there that an Edmonton police officer named Gary Goulet befriended a young boy with cancer.
Chemotherapy had robbed the boy of his hair and he was being ridiculed by other kids for it.
Goulet, who already had a shaved head, wanted to show the boy that it was okay to be bald, and offered to pose for a photo with him in front of a police cruiser.
Other cops joined in and that was the start of Cops for Cancer, and the first Tour de Rock bike tour occurred in 1998.
To date, Tour de Rock has raised more than $26 million for pediatric cancer research and support programs like Camp Goodtimes.