A flying squadron of more than 100 cyclists wheeled into Ladysmith Sunday, June 12, en route from Comox to Victoria in the annual Boomer’s Legacy BC Bike Ride, stopping off at Tim Hortons for a 45 minute break before heading back out onto Highway 1.
In the pack was former CFB Comox base commander Jim Benninger, who said the ride commemorates the 158 soldiers who died in the Afghanistan conflict between 2001 and 2014.
“One of the reasons is to keep those members, who gave their lives for this country… to show some respect and to let them know that we are still thinking of them and their sacrifice,” he said during the Ladysmith stop.
The ride is named after the son of Maureen and Hans Eykelenboom, Andres “Boomer” Eykelenboom, who was killed in a suicide bomb attack near the Afghan border with Pakistan on August 11, 2006.
Boomer was just 23 years old, and had actually concluded his tour of duty and was getting ready to return to Canada at the end of a seven month deployment, but volunteered to go out with his medical unit because it was short two members.
“It was that day in 2006 that the Eykelenboom family formed a bond with the CAF that would impact the lives of thousands around the world, and most certainly, in Canada,” says a release about the two-day, 240 kilometre run from Boomer’s grave site in Comox to the Parliament Building in Victoria.
Since its inception the Boomer Legacy ride has raised over $1 million, money which helps “men and women in uniform make a positive difference in the lives of others.” The funds have been used for humanitarian projects in Afghanistan and at home in Canada.
“I knew the day after he was killed that I would start a foundation called Boomer’s Legacy,” Maureen explained, “so that soldiers on patrol could access funds for humanitarian projects in Afghanistan.”
Asked why he was on the ride, John Belanger, who was lined up with his team mates at the Ladysmith Tim Hortons during their break, said: “A lot of reasons, but definitely to help out the military guys when they go over, and they can assist the communities that they’re involved with.”
Jeannie Applin said for her the ride is a reminder of the international peacekeeping role the Canadian military has been best known for. She was riding “to say thank you to our military staff, that support Canada today.”
To Benninger the Boomer Legacy fund is representative of the positive role Canada’s military can play helping people in need. “This money goes a long, long way to help those people,” he said.
Ride Marshal Greg Merchant said the organizers would love to have more riders from Ladysmith and the Cowichan Valley on the team. You can contact Boomer Legacy BC ride co-chair Andrew Gower at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.