Tour de Rock receives warm welcome in Ladysmith and Chemainus

Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock riders left Ladysmith and Chemainus with many great memories and many donations from local organizations.

Tour de Rock rider Chris Fernandes gets a hug from Ladysmith Canadian Cancer Society unit president Janice Grinnell as the riders arrive in Ladysmith Oct. 1.

The fanfare and the excitement of the 2012 Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock may be over, but the journey toward its climatic finish on Oct. 5 is one that the riders and the spectators will not soon forget.

And with more than $18,000 in donations raised and counting, Ladysmith was no exception.

The 18 cyclists representing this year’s Tour came through the town Oct. 1 and were welcomed at the Tim Horton’s and Ladysmith and District Credit Union. Although no one was brave enough to lose their locks for the cause during the welcoming ceremony, plenty of businesses and organizations came forward to present their donations to the Tour, which raises money for research into childhood cancer.

For local rider Chris Fernandes, a Nanaimo reserve constable who has spent 40 years with the RCMP, the most memorable moment occurred when one local gentleman approached him to make a sizable donation to the cause. He had just lost his wife to cancer that very morning.

“It was certainly very touching, for me. I hated to leave him,” he said. “I couldn’t even imagine what I would have done if it was my own wife.”

During the 1,000-kilometre ride, Fernandez carried a photo of his granddaughter Harmony on the crossbar of his bike. Last year, the two-and-a-half-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia. She is now in remission but has a few more years of chemotherapy ahead of her.

“There are so many good causes out there — find something and be passionate about it and give back,” he advised. “My granddaughter is very precious to me, and this is going to be my passion.”

That passion is shared by Black Press rider Kyle Slavin.

As a reporter for the Saanich News, Slavin has covered countless Cops for Cancer fundraisers, and he was keen for the opportunity to participate on the ground floor. The experience has been nothing short of amazing, he says.

“People just gravitate toward the cause,” he said. “There’s so many people that you’re seeing and so many tears you’re sharing with complete strangers.”

Ladysmith’s Red Serge Dinner, held Oct. 1, was well attended.

Guests were treated to a beautiful roast beef dinner catered by the Eagles and served by local RCMP members while they bid on plenty of donated live and silent auction items.

Local organizations such as the Eagles, Eagles Auxiliary and Tim Horton’s also came forward to present donations to the cause.

Ladysmith resident Tammy Dougan spoke about the trials and tribulations she and her family experienced with her son Callum who, at only four months old, was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma in 2008.

His bright smile inspired Tour de Rock riders for two years as a junior rider; however, shortly after the end of the 2010 ride, little Callum lost his battle with cancer.

His little brother Zachary now represents him as a junior rider.

“What you don’t want to hear is your child has cancer, but what you mostly don’t want to hear is ‘we’ve done all we can; there’s nothing more we can do,’” Dougan said. “So when I stand here and support the Cancer Society and Tour de Rock, the research part of that is so important to us.

“We hope to be able to continue with the Tour de Rock and Canadian Cancer Society to one day be able to not only have a real cure, but also really focus on prevention as well, and find out why our kids are getting cancer, not just ‘lets fix it now that we have it.’”

After Ladysmith, Tour de Rock riders went to Chemainus, where the Chemainus Legion hosted a breakfast. The breakfast itself raised $600, but that was only the beginning of the generosity.

Peter Richmond and Ron Neubauer of 49th Parallel Grocery handed over $10,450 that Neubauer raised through garage sales, the Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary donated $5,000, and many other community groups came forward to present donations to the riders.

The riders visited Chemainus Elementary School before riding on to Lake Cowichan.

For more information about this year’s Tour de Rock, click here.

The 14-day Tour wrapped up Oct. 5 at a grand finale celebration in Victoria.

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