It’s been all training rides to date and now it’s the real thing as Port Alberni RCMP Const. Tom Gill rides in the 2011 Cops For Cancer Tour de Rock.
Gill and his 21 team mates are riding into Port Alberni from Parksville on Friday afternoon.
The team will be make its first stop at Walmart between 12:15-12:50 p.m. They will be making further stops at Co-op, Alberni Toyota, Boston Pizza and the Best Western Barclay Hotel.
Gill took some time out to speak to the News after finishing the second leg of the ride from Port McNeill to Sayward.
“The wind and the rain made the ride tougher but we just rode slower and pushed harder — it’s not unmanageable,” Gill said.
Gill’s frame has altered becoming more lean and taut since he started riding. But his mindset has changed as well. “I’ve become more aware of the widespread impact of cancer, especially its impact on youth,” Gill said.
“They’re unseen victims, there are kids battling cancer today and you wouldn’t know it.”
Gill never ceases to be struck by the resiliency by young cancer patients in towns he’s passed through as part of the tour.
“Meeting these kids and doing something that makes a difference in their lives is the best part of this,” Gill said.
There have been other poignant moments on the tour.
Gill chatted with a friend during a stop on the tour. The visit turned serious though when the friend confided his father recently died of cancer. “The man had never been sick a day in his life,” Gill said.
Participating in the tour isn’t separate from his role as a police officer but rather part of it.
“Coaching teams, helping on the playground and volunteering at homes for the disabled — these are the things that policemen do,” Gill said.
“Making yourself available for things like this — I believe that’s a core part of my duties.”
Gill’s thoughts often return to his junior rider — Brett Wasylyniuk.
Gill and the team were hit hard by the elements from the outset of the ride. In fact, power had just been restored in Sayward when Gill spoke.
But thinking about his junior rider Brett Wasylyniuk got him through those tough stretches.
“I thought about Brett and what he is going through,” Gill said. “It made the rain pelting against my face feel not so bad.”
The youngster just celebrated his fourth birthday one day before the tour started.
He’d just gotten home the day before from children’s hospital in Vancouver, where he underwent special blood treatments for his condition.
Named after former Greenbay Packer quarterback Brett Favre, Wasylyniuk has been battling Rhabdomyo Sarcoma, a cancerous tumor of the muscles that are attached to the bones.
“I remember the day he was born, it was the best day of my life,” Brett’s father Richard said.
“But it was heart wrenching when we were told it was aggressive.”
Brett has been back and forth to Vancouver since January. “We’re there one day a week or six days ,” Richard said.
The Wasylyniuk’s singed up with the local chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society, who picked Brett to be a Tour de Rock junior rider.
The Wasylyniuk’s met Gill at the Relay for Life cancer event, which was held last spring.
The bond between Gill and Brett was immediate.
“He (Brett) really took to him right away,” Richard said. “He used to be a really shy kid but this really opened him up.”
At Brett’s fourth birthday, a small gathering of family and friends helped him celebrate. There were few other children his age, though.
Brett’s treatments and time away have kept him from school and event with other kids his age.
But at medical officials urging Brett has also been semi-isolated to safeguard his tamped down immune system, Richard said.
Nevertheless, the Wasylyniuk’s try to have Brett live as regular an existence as possible.
“We don’t want him to live in a bubble — we want him to have a life,” Richard said.
Brett is in Vancouver again this week and Richard didn’t know if they could meet Gill when he arrives in Port Alberni.
Instead, they plan to catch up with him on Sunday at Cathedral Grove or in Parksville.into town on Friday.
Back in Sayward earlier this week, Gill reflected on what the Tour de Rock meant to him.
“Hands down I would do it all again, whether I’m a police officer or a forestry engineer like I was previously,” Gill said.
◆ The Tour arrives:
◆ On the hump between 11:45 a.m. and 12:05 p.m.
◆ Walmart between 12:15-12:50 p.m.
◆ Toyota luncheon between 1-2 p.m.
◆ Co-op 2-2:30 p.m.
◆ Alberni Mall 2:30-3:30 p.m.