Port Alberni RCMP officer Brady Mathison will ride with the 2016 Tour de Rock team in September, a mission he is in entirely for the children.
“I wanted to be a small part of this huge organization that raises money for pediatric cancer research,” Mathison said. “Last summer my niece was diagnosed with cancer and it really hits home.
“My sister says, you never expect to hear your child’s name and the word cancer in the same sentence… you just get this sinking feeling in your stomach.”
The 2016 Canadian Cancer Society Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team includes 14 police officers, one media personality and two guest riders.
The team trains three times a week and will fundraise as much as possible for pediatric cancer research over the next five months.
Tour de Rock members will cycle from one end of the Vancouver Island to the other, over 14 days, covering 1,000 kilometres.
The tour begins on Sept. 24 in Port Alice and will end in Victoria on Oct. 7.
Exercises include an evening for hill training, a speed night and a day for long-distance rides.
“I look forward to it, it’s the highlight of my week,” Mathison said. “You look forward to meeting the [team], you start building a pretty good bond and look forward to seeing them.”
Although the training is quite strenuous, it’s nothing compared to what children affected with cancer have to go through, Mathison said.
“The physical part of it, that’s a piece of cake for me…It’s the emotional part of it like trying to deal with seeing the kids,” Mathison said.
The 2016 team was announced on Friday, May 6 in front of a large crowd at Shawnigan Lake School. The team includes riders from almost every part of Vancouver Island.
Special guest riders include Mena Westhaver, who is the mother of a junior team member, Jack, who was diagnosed with cancer just before his sixth birthday.
By Jack’s side during his three and a half years of leukemia treatment was the other guest rider, Anne Carrelli, who works at the pediatric oncology outpatient unit at Victoria General hospital.
“One guest rider is a parent of a child that had cancer and she’s just awesome and the other is a pediatric oncology nurse,” Mathison said.
“Just listening to her stories, I don’t think anyone had a dry eye… it was just so hard to hear.”
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This year close to 920 Canadian children under the age of 14 will be diagnosed with cancer, about 117 of which will lose their battle.
Since 1998, the tour has raised more than $20 million for the Canadian Cancer Society, which uses the money to fund pediatric cancer research and programs that help children with cancer and their families.
Each team member is responsible for raising at least $5,000 on their own through fundraising endeavors.
Mathison said he’s always admired the work that people have done with Tour de Rock.
“I thought that there’s no reason why I couldn’t do it this year when they came by and asked if someone was interested,” Mathison said.”
Another rider, originally from Port Alberni, is Donovan Tait who is now an officer with the Nanaimo RCMP.
“I have many sources of motivation to embark on this journey of training and commitment. This is a horrible disease that kids should not have to suffer with,” Tait wrote on his online Tour de Rock bio page.
“I challenge those of you from my hometown of Port Alberni, and my surrogate hometown Island communities of Nanaimo, Campbell River, Comox Valley and Sooke to donate generously and out do each other.”
Visit tourderock.ca for more information, to get involved or to donate.