Tom Gill is a mix of emotions as he pauses during a weekend training ride, his bright blue and yellow Spandex cycling outfit a contrast to the dull green of his rural surroundings.
He can’t help grinning as he talks about how psyched he is to be riding in this year’s Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock. But the grin quickly fades and tears threaten as he talks about his motivation.
It’s the kids.
“I’m as soft as they come; kids win,” he said. “The first people I’m interested in all the time are the kids.”
The Tour de Rock is a grueling, two-week bicycle tour that happens every September and October on Vancouver Island. Law enforcement officers and journalists embark on the journey to raise awareness and funds for research into pediatric cancers.
This year there are 22 riders who will start out in Port Alice on Sept. 24 and wrap up their Island-wide trip Oct. 7 in Victoria. They will stop in Port Alberni on Sept. 30.
Gill is an RCMP officer in the traffic division at the Port Alberni detachment. He and the rest of the Tour de Rock team were presented to the public on May 14, but those who had applied have been training since last March in the hopes they would be chosen.
Gill has been thinking about participating in the Tour de Rock for the past three years. He helped Cpl. Wilma Bolderheij behind the scenes during her run last year and that only fueled his determination to participate.
A relatively new member to the force—he graduated from RCMP Depot in Regina, Sask. in September 2008—Gill put his name in the first year he was in the force, then trained for a while in his second year. He knew because Port Alberni’s detachment is so small that only one rider could be chosen per year, and last year was not to be his.
He was willing to wait.
Gill joined the police department after a career in forest management in B.C.’s Interior. “Policing was something I always wanted to do,” he said. He wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.
His family—wife Cindy, daughter Carly, 17, and son Eric, 14—gave him their full support, relocating from Armstrong for his new career.
“It was time,” he said.
Port Alberni was Gill’s first posting in the RCMP, and he loves living and working here. He started out in general duty and in May switched to the traffic division.
“That was a choice,” he said. “That’s another one where I believe I can make a difference.”
He attended a function where Laurel Middelaer spoke about the tragic death of her four-year-old daughter Alexa, killed by a drunk driver in Ladner. Middelaer’s words were powerful, he said.
“It’s a focus of mine to take impaired drivers off the road. You can make a difference in a family’s future by making the road safe,” he said.
He also wants to make a difference in the fight against cancer.
Gill said he has been touched by cancer, both in his large family (there are 15 kids on his father’s side and eight on his mother’s) and among friends.
When he was younger and playing ball, he got to know one of his teammates and his young son. The teen loved to fish and hunt, and always talked about his dream to Gill.
“He was given a new rifle for graduation, and ended up getting leukemia and died.”
Gill pauses as he relates the story, emotion choking him up.
He talks about his fundraising goal of $25,000, ambitious, but attainable as far as he’s concerned.
“I’ll leave no stone unturned by the time I’m done,” he said.
“I believe our youth that are going through this, if we can cure them, they will be our leaders.”
Gill has been paired with a junior rider, Brett Wasylyniuk, a young boy from the Alberni Valley who has Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer found in the connective tissue between muscles and bones.
He hasn’t spent too much time with Wasylyniuk, though: the boy has been away receiving treatment.
To support Gill in his tour, you can go online to www.copsforcancerbc.ca and follow the links to his personal page. Or support any one of the fundraisers listed elsewhere on this page.