“Everyone has been touched by cancer and has a story,” said Heather Strange as she wiped tears out of her eyes, watching the Irwin family have their head shaved inside Poirier Elementary last Thursday afternoon to support Cops for Cancer.
She said her seven-year-old son Carter has “some serious health issues,” and that she can relate to the Irwins — whose daughter Daisy fought leukemia when she was a baby.
“We’ve done fundraisers together to help out Carter so from a mom’s perspective, I get it,” said an emotional Strange, who added she will be raising money to help her own son in May.
Molly, Daisy’s big sister, shrieked in delight as the razor sheared off the first chunk of her hair. Her dad, Patrick, was calm as could be as his curly brown locks fell to the floor strand by strand. Deafening cheers filled the air.
The Poirier gym was overflowing with members of the T-Sou-ke First Nation, Sooke Pipe & Drums, teachers, staff, parents, and students including ones bussed in from all over the region. The Tour de Rock riders stood in a line at the front while there was singing, speeches, and the presentation of donations from various schools and organizations. A Poirier Grade 5 student, Claire Arts, contributed a ziplock bag containing her pony tail which she cut off to have made into a wig for cancer patients.
The riders, nearing the end of their tour, have experienced similar support at their many stops along the way.
“We started out in Duncan this morning and rode out to Shawnigan Lake and had a great reception,” said RCMP Const. Steve Trevor from Comox Valley. “ We did a couple schools out there and we went and conquered the hump, or the Malahat, after that and rode up as a team slow and steady.”
To welcome Trevor and the rest of his team into Sooke, children lined the sidewalks holding signs with encouraging messages like “Go Go Go!” hand-coloured on them, yelling and clapping every time a car or bike rode by as they waited for the Tour de Rock group. It was the first time this many kids were able to attend since the tour has traditionally been held in the early evening, said Journey Middle School counsellor Janine Brooks.
“The energy is incredible.”
Journey vice principal Wayne Kelly said their school raised $1,500 in three days for the cause through bake sales and games like throw an egg at a teacher. Despite the young age of the students, he said they understand how devastating cancer is.
“There have been a few students (at our school in the past) who have passed away from leukemia,” said Kelly. The school has held little memorials and installed benches in their memory.
“We explain that to the kids.”
The total amount raised by Sooke is still being tallied up, but so far has surpassed $20,000.