Ladysmith is known for its heart and community spirit, and that spirit shines through each fall when the community embraces the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock.
After coming through Ladysmith Sept. 29, the 2014 Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team arrived in Victoria Oct. 3 after cycling 1,100 kilometres from Port Alice and Port Hardy.
The team of 24 spent 14 days on the road, visiting 27 communities on the Island, and it’s been reported that the Tour de Rock has raised $1,154,766 so far for childhood cancer research and to send children to Camp Goodtimes.
As the Tour de Rock came into Ladysmith for the 16th year on Sept. 29, Heather Hunter, a school liaison officer with the Saanich Police Department, says the team’s arrival into town was inspiring and emotional.
“Coming into Ladysmith with the bagpipes and to have the honour guard there and to have people holding signs with our names on them, there was so much love,” she said.
Hunter had a hard time finding the words to describe her experience as a tour rider.
“The tour itself has been amazing,” she said. “It’s been physically challenging, but even more so emotionally, as we go into these hugely supportive communities. Each day, I think I’ve come home with a different reason why I’m doing the tour. It’s really hard to express what the tour is. When we go into small communities and as we’re pulling in, our names are on posters on the utility poles in town, the whole team is crying because of how supported we feel and knowing that the whole reason we are doing this is in the hopes that children with cancer are feeling that support.”
During the Red Serge Dinner Sept. 29 at the Ladysmith Eagles Hall, 18-year-old Jesse Goerzen of Maple Ridge shared his story with the crowd. Goerzen was diagnosed with a brain tumour Oct. 1, 2013.
As a result of the three surgeries he had that October, Goerzen had two small strokes. He contracted spinal meningitis and a bacterial infection, resulting in neurological setbacks and nerve damage that took away his ability to walk and run.
“I’ve progressed from being bedridden to being able to walk with a cane,” he told the crowd. “It hasn’t been easy, but I’m not a quitter, and I’m not about to start now.”
Goerzen had to undergo a 10-hour craniotomy, six months of chemotherapy, and radiation.
With everything he went through, he manages to find positives.
“I have been so blessed to have been cared for by so many wonderful caregivers,” he said. “The greatest thing that has come out of this for me is a deeper faith and stronger belief in God.”
Goerzen has an MRI coming up in a couple of weeks, and he knows that every scan holds the possibility of good news or bad news. He will have a scan every three months for the next two years.
“While I can say I don’t know what my future holds, I know who holds my future,” he said. “If something doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. We can all learn from our hard situations and grow and become better people, and it’s true, a good attitude does make all the difference.”
According to Kim Judson, chair of the Tour de Rock Ladysmith committee, the community raised roughly about $45,000 for childhood cancer research and Camp Goodtimes, which includes all the donations from Ladysmith, not just the events right around the riders’ arrival.
“While I am keenly aware that Ladysmith is just one stop in the Tour, our community is an integral part of something much larger than even this fundraiser or cause,” Judson said in an e-mail. “It’s a community that binds together when there is a need, a community that cares deeply for those who are too weary to stand, a community that will rally to help a neighbour or stranger, and a community that will wholeheartedly battle cancer when given the chance. It is truly a community that I am so incredibly humbled to be a part of.”
Judson is very thankful to the community.
“I would wish Ladysmith to understand that the impact that they have made in children’s lives — both for now and in the future — is significant … significant in research, significant in special and precious moments, significant for cancer patients all over, significant for quality of life and certainly inspirational to me. They are worth the effort, and this community is more than worthy of my gratitude.”