Tour de Rock riders give a smile and a wave during a training ride near Nanaimo last month. The team will have a send off Saturday morning at Thrifty Foods at Admirals Walk in View Royal before heading to Port Alice to begin this year’s tour.

Tour de Rock takes on the Island

Police, guest riders set off on emotional 1,000 km journey against cancer

Composure is expected of Oak Bay cop Dorothy Junio, but it’s hard not to get a little misty-eyed walking into the Oak Bay High gymnasium when 1,500 kids are screaming for the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team.

For her last two years in the role, the former school liaison officer was swept into the excitement with the Oak Bay teens as they went head-to-head in a fundraising face-off with Reynolds secondary – an annual challenge that has seen students at both schools generate tens of thousands of dollars for the cause that fights childhood cancer.

“That’s what drew me into this to begin with,” said Junio. “I cannot believe the passion and the emotions that go along with this. It’s contagious. The real purpose comes out when you see kids so dedicated to the cause.”

So Junio, 50, along with her husband Jett, a Saanich police officer, became the first husband and wife duo to join the team of police officers on the 1,000-kilometre journey down Vancouver Island set to leave from Port Alice on Sunday.

And while Junio was physically fit leading up to the Tour, the commitment meant adjusting to the balancing act of managing three training sessions per week and attending fundraisers with Cops for Cancer, on top of her work as a police officer, business owner and parent of two teens – who have had to “fend for themselves,” she said, while both parents have been tied up.

“It’s just been a blur,” Junio said. “We did it one day at a time. That’s how we managed.”

“I don’t know how I would have done it without (Jett),” she added. “We motivate each other to get to the events, the training and complain about all the aches and pains (together).”

That close-knit and supportive team mentality reached beyond the Junios to 15 other riders from across the Island – a group of police officers, media members and special guests who came from a variety of fitness levels and backgrounds to pursue the shared goal of fighting pediatric cancer.

“We really gelled together as a team,” said Jose Bingham, a 38-year-old VicPD officer. “We’ve grown really close and we’re ready to get out there.”

After eight months of training, media rider and Saanich News reporter Kyle Slavin, echoes the sentiment.

“At some point you get into a team mindset, which is really neat, where you stop thinking for yourself and you’re thinking about the person in front of you and the person behind you and beside you to make sure they’re not struggling, that they are with you, or they are with the team,” Slavin said. “Once everyone gets to that point, it’s really neat because you feel like a team.”

Slavin, at 25, hadn’t been on a bicycle in years prior to joining the team and feels fully prepared for the Island-wide journey.

“They’ve made the training schedule quite incremental so that you’re able to handle it if you’re 20 years old or 67 years old,” he said.

The team’s two special guests, former junior rider Matt Webb, who was diagnosed with Burkitts lymphoma at age three, and Bob “the Bobfather” McDonald, who has been a dedicated volunteer trainer and support crew member of the team since 2008, are both of those ages, respectively.

McDonald puts a lot of other riders to shame, said Saanich police’s Jana Sawyer – another of the team’s 50-year-old contingent.

“I’ve always tried to stay in shape but biking is very different,” said Sawyer, who rides without full function in one of her lungs after several bouts of pneumonia. “I hadn’t biked in probably close to 40 years.”

But any setbacks, aches and pains pale in comparison to the motivation behind the ride: supporting children with cancer.

“The thought of my son and daughter being sick like some of the kids we’ve met on tour is absolutely devastating,” said Bingham, a father of two, “so the opportunity to take part has been really special.”

“Every person on tour is going to have their ‘A ha moment’ or their moment of clarity where they realize why they’re doing it and from that point on it’ll be overwhelming,” Slavin said.

“It’s going to be the moment when a three-year-old with cancer comes up and hugs you, or comes up and thanks you, or it’s going to be when you’re in a school gym and you see 100 people who are 14, 15, 16 and they all have shaved heads, and you’re just going to burst into tears and from that point on your perspective of Tour will be that much different.”

Since its inception in 1998 the tour has raised $16.6 million toward pediatric cancer research and programs that help children with cancer and their families through the Canadian Cancer Society.

Riders will have a farewell event at outside Thrifty Foods at Admiral’s Walk on Saturday, from 7:30 to 9 a.m., before heading to Port Alice.

The Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock sets off from Port Alice on Sept. 23 and arrives in Victoria on Oct. 5.

Check out the Tour schedule at tourderock.ca and keep up on Tour news at bclocalnews.com/tour-de-rock and enter to win a $500 Thrifty Foods gift card.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

 

 

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