BY DUCK PATERSON
A Chemainus woman is a paramedic and a firefighter, and now she’s going to cycle with the Cops for Cancer.
Kayla Carlson will pedal down Vancouver Island over two weeks in this year’s Tour de Rock fundraiser, which starts Sept. 23.
Carlson started with the Chemainus Fire Department as a junior member when she was 17, inspired by a conversation with a high school teacher.
“Her son worked for B.C. Wildfire and had mentioned there wasn’t many women on his crew,” Carlson said. “I was always involved in sports, and when I saw that Chemainus was recruiting members, I put in an application the next day,” Carlson said.
She said it turned out to be one of the best decisions of her life, as attending emergency calls with other first responders led to her career as a paramedic.
“I have enjoyed all of the learning and the growth that has come with it…” she said. “I enjoy working in fast-paced environments and the connections I make with people I encounter along the way.”
She’s hoping to go back to school and pursue a career in medicine, specializing in emergency medicine, but before that, she’ll be busy with the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team that will be cycling the length and width of Vancouver Island again this fall. The 2023 tour team consists of 19 cyclists and a support crew and the ride begins Sept. 23 in Port Alice and concludes Oct. 6 in Victoria. The tour stop in Ladysmith will be Oct. 2.
Carlson said she used to think the Tour de Rock was just for police officers, but when she learned that other emergency services personnel were welcome, she was keen to get involved.
“Tour de Rock has always held a special place in my heart. Some of my fondest memories from elementary school were when the Tour de Rock team stopped at the school and held the head-shaving fundraiser,” she said.
The chance to participate in a community-oriented event and be physically active were other factors that drew her to the tour. She’s always been active and kept up with a regular workout routine before ever earning a place on the Tour de Rock team, which gave her a head start on the structured training that’s demanded of participants. The training involves three scheduled rides a week with Tuesday nights being the designated ‘hill nights.’
“Those sessions usually involved 40 to 50 kilometres and lots of elevation,” she said.
There’s also speed practice and endurance rides of up to 100 kilometres.
Carlson remembers from her school days the educational component of the Tour de Rock and learning about pediatric cancer, and there’s more of that ahead.
“It’s really tough to see the youngsters who are going through all those cancer treatments,” said Carlson, “and it really drives me, and all of us to do the best we can … My true inspiration comes from my grandpa, and good friend Alex, and all the kids that we are helping along the way. No hill is as big as facing a cancer diagnosis.”
She’s set a high fundraising goal that has added some stress to the tour preparation, but has been grateful to receive support from all over the area and beyond.
Carlson said she loves the camaraderie that’s formed among the group of riders.
“Everyone is so supportive when someone is having a tough day, and they are like a second family to me,” she said, adding that even with the ride yet to come, the Tour de Rock has already been “an unforgettable experience.”
For more information on Tour de Rock 2023 or to assist Carlson in her ride, click this link.