COVID-19 couldn’t keep Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock riders from hitting the road to battle childhood cancer, but this year’s tour of Vancouver Island will be different from any that came before it.
This year’s Tour de Rock starts Wednesday, Sept. 23, launching from Port Alice as in previous years and winding its way down the Island, finishing in Victoria on Oct. 2.
COVID-19 restrictions prevented the formation of a new team, so for the first time in the Tour de Rock’s 22-year history, alumni riders are pedalling segments of the route within their communities on consecutive days, like a relay of mini-tours.
The format might be different, but the mission of Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock remains the same: to raise money to battle pediatric cancer and to support programs for children and their families struggling with the disease. One of the beneficiaries is Camp Goodtimes, a summer camp operated by the Canadian Cancer Society for children fighting cancer.
The tour raises money but is also a symbol of support for child cancer patients and their families who this year have suffered additional isolation under restrictions imposed by efforts to control the spread of COVID-19.
Simon Douthwaite, who was one of the riders representing Nanaimo on the 2019 Tour de Rock team and is the parent of a cancer survivor, understands the impact a visit from a Tour de Rock team can have.
“I was actually planning on stepping away a little this year, but I think of those kids at home who are in treatment,” Douthwaite said. “I know we can’t stop and visit their families this year, but we can go and do a ride-by. It might not seem like much, just doing that, but I know how powerful it is. I can still remember the tour coming to us for the first time. You feel like you’re centre of the world when it happens.”
Tour alumnus Const. Cydney MacNeill, a Nanaimo RCMP Bike Patrol member, will swap her police mountain bike for her road bike for the 2020 tour. She said her motivations for riding remain the same as they did when she rode in 2019.
“We’re motivated to end childhood cancer or at least make it as livable as it can be for a child battling. To try and find treatments that are gentler on children. To try and give them beacons of light in the battle, like Camp Goodtimes,” she said.
This summer Camp Goodtimes was held virtually online instead of at the actual camp at Loon Lake in Maple Ridge because of efforts to control the spread of COVID-19.
“That’s not going to happen this year, but the poor peanuts, they’re dealt such a horrible hand that we need to try and give them some hope, to know that there are people out there fighting for them and that we’re still going to be there for them,” MacNeill said.
Along with stops for receptions and cheque presentations when the riders tour Nanaimo on Sept. 27, there will also be five ride-by visits past Nanaimo homes and families.
Since its first tour in 1998, Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock has raised $26 million for pediatric cancer research and programs. This year’s goal is to raise $600,000.
Fore more information on tour events and dates, visit www.tourderock.ca.