Port Alberni will not have a hometown rider in the 22nd annual Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock, but this year’s organizers are still gearing up for the ride’s stop in the Alberni Valley at the end of September.
The riders will arrive in Port Alberni on Friday, Sept 27, with a time still to be determined, and will depart for Ucluelet on Saturday, Sept. 28.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s annual Tour de Rock, is a two-week, 1,000-kilometre bike ride across Vancouver Island for a team of police officers. The event, which is one of the longest-running fundraisers in the province, raises money to fight childhood cancer.
The riders were announced in May this year, and although none of them hail from Port Alberni, organizers are still planning a welcome party for the Tour de Rock team.
“We’ll greet them as we always do,” said Port Alberni RCMP Cst. Beth O’Connor, who was a rider herself in 2017. “We’ll gather people in one place and have our junior riders there.”
Port Alberni has two junior riders—Brett and Ryder—who will be riding around town with the Tour de Rock team when they arrive in Port Alberni.
“It’s a big deal for the kids, hanging out with us the whole time,” said O’Connor. “With the escort and the music going, it’s a real pump-up. The kids are right in there with us—they’re just glowing.”
Before the riders arrive in Port Alberni, a beer and burger fundraiser will take place at Boston Pizza on Monday, Sept. 23 from 6-9 p.m. (Tickets available at Boston Pizza, or by calling Bev Frolic at 250-724-4116 or Gerry Fagan at 250-731-5574.)
On Friday, Sept. 27, a dinner will take place for the Tour de Rock riders at the Alberni Athletic Hall. Doors open at 5 p.m. Port Alberni residents will have a chance to come out and meet the riders while enjoying a turkey dinner, as well as entertainment and live and silent auctions.
Matilda Atleo, the main organizer of the dinner, said that servers and cooks have been lined up, but she is still looking for volunteers. Organizers are still looking for silent auction items, as well.
“We’re seeking donations from local grocers,” Atleo said. “Usually they’re quite open to donating something for the dinner.”
“People are very generous,” added O’Connor. “[When I was a rider] I was blown away by the generosity of local companies and the lengths they would go to to help out.”
Part of the funds raised from Tour de Rock go towards pediatric cancer research, while others go towards Camp Good Times—a medically supervised summer camp that provides a unique refuge for children and families affected by childhood cancer. Funding also goes to support local families who are dealing with the costs for aftercare and hospital trips to the mainland.
The Canadian Cancer Society in Port Alberni closed its doors in 2018, but the organization is still active in the community. A volunteer can always be reached by phone at 250-720-9204.
“It’s hard,” admitted volunteer Sheila Aolick. “We still have our meetings every couple of months. We’re still quite active, we just don’t have a space.”
O’Connor described 2019 as a bit of a “slump year,” due to the lack of a rider and a late start for planning and organization. For next year’s events, she and Atleo are hoping to put together a committee made of up representatives from the Canadian Cancer Society, RCMP and other volunteers.
“So that we can have different people taking on different roles,” Atleo explained. “That way we have a clear communication.”
“It gives us more time,” O’Connor added. “So we can have everything planned a little more in advance. Right now we’re hoping for a good turnout, and just keeping [Tour de Rock] in the forefront of people’s minds.”
She admitted that she and other organizers have learned a lot this year.
“We’d like to do more, for sure. Maybe next year we’ll be in a better position,” she said. “And hopefully we’ll have a local rider.”
“It will be bigger and better,” added Atleo.
For more information about upcoming events, tickets or volunteer opportunities, contact Matilda Atleo at 250-720-6141 or firstname.lastname@example.org.