Ladysmith stayed true to its reputation as a giving community by breaking a 22 year record for Tour de Rock. The community raised $103,500 to help kids with cancer. The grand total raised was $1.1 million.
Ladysmith’s rider Cassie Loveless said she was blown away by the community support.
“It feels a little surreal,” she said. “I was a little bit in awe from the support from this community. I don’t know why — after 45 years you’d think I’d expect it — but I was still in awe of the amazing support I received when I got to Ladysmith.”
When the Tour came to town they visited Ladysmith Secondary School, where fundraisers presented them with a cheque for $1,440. Later that evening several community members presented Tour de Rock with cheques.
Ed Polachek presented a cheque for $8,000, which he raised over the year collected recyclable cans and bottles. Tim Hortons raised $5,150 from smile cookie sales. The Eagles Aerie presented a cheque for $1,000, and the ladies’ auxiliary presented a cheque for $1,200. The RCMP Veterans of Central Vancouver Island gave $500. Ladysmith Logger Sports raised $5,600. North Oyster Fire Department gave $600. The Ladysmith Lion’s Club gave $1,000. Ladysmith Fire Resuce raised $1,700 from hot dog sales at Logger Sports. David Stalker Excavation gave $5,000.
Loveless was sole Ladysmith rider on the team. She said the other riders were amazed by their experience in town.
“They loved how everyone knew each other, and the long standing jokes back and forth. One of my co-riders, Simon, has lived all over the world. He’s never really had roots to a small town… he said it was right out of a movie the way this town is,” Loveless said.
Loveless has lived in Ladysmith her entire life. She was crowned Ms. Ladysmith in 1990. The 49th Parallel sponsored her back then, and they did so again for Tour de Rock.
The 49th presented Tour de Rock with a cheque for $47,187 at their store in Chemainus. All year long, the 49th hosts a fundraiser through their Chemainus General Store where people can bring in old furniture. That furniture is then sold and the money goes toward Tour de Rock.
Over the last 10 years, the 49th has donated around $260,000.
“This is certainly a cause near and dear to us. We’ve had family members touched by cancer. We believe in the cause, and it’s something that kids shouldn’t have to deal with. We’ve been proud to support the cause for the last 11, 12 years or so,” Peter Richmond, owner of the 49th said.
Loveless said the Tour itself was exhausting. Every day featured multiple tour stops, and large stretches of road in between. The average distance was 100 km a day. Loveless powered through an ankle injury that she sustained on the third day of riding.
“The community support, the people, and most importantly the cancer kids they keep you going,” she said. “It’s hard to describe… I was bound and determined not to stop riding after eight months of training.”
The last leg of the tour was from the B.C. legislature up to Centennial Square in Victoria. She said that as they rode up Johnson street they felt like rock stars. In that moment, she was fully present and said she really took everything in.
“It was a really beautiful moment. It was a mixture of we’ve done something great for these kids, and all the miles, all the tears, and everything was so worth it for this sense of accomplishment, awareness, and kids we’ve met along the way,” she said.
Her entire family was waiting for her at Centennial Square to surprise her at the finish line. When she saw them she burst into tears from the level of support they gave her through the process.
Now that the ride is over, Loveless has returned to her job with the B.C. Ambulance Service. She moved in May, and has been so busy with Tour de Rock she hasn’t had the opportunity to fully unpack. She’s looking forward to settling down and taking some time before starting any new challenges.
That being said, after all those months of training, riding, and being outdoors, Loveless can’t keep herself off the bike. Before the tour she had limited cycling experience, but now that she’s at a fitness level where she can ride 100km a day, she wants to keep it.
After everything, what Loveless values the most are the connections she’s made with her junior riders.
“These kids are incredible. I’ve become very dear friends with them, and I just adore these kids,” she said. “That’s the legacy that lives on, the money and the treatment for these kids. And the relationship that I have with these amazing kids, and their families. I’m so blessed.”