EDITORIAL: Tour rocks on

Before there was a Tour de Rock, there was young Lyle Jorgenson of Alberta, who was being picked on after radiation treatment for cancer left him bald. And a single Edmonton police sergeant, Gary Goulet, who already had a shaved head but who rounded up a handful of other officers from his detachment to shave their heads in solidarity with the youth.

In just a few short years, the isolated head-shaving incident evolved into a partnership between Canadian law enforcement and the Canadian Cancer Society.

The 20th annual Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock rolls into Qualicum Beach and Parksville this week as a multi-million-dollar fundraising juggernaut, backed by corporate sponsors and donors, civic and business leaders and the well-heeled throughout Vancouver Island. Black Press and the PQB News are among those sponsors.

But the tour has never lost track of Jorgenson and the hundreds of pediatric cancer sufferers from across B.C. and beyond. The Tour de Rock must not be mistaken for a splashy, made-for-camera fundraiser featuring coddled cops on a cushy paid leave from their regular duties. Rather, it is months of gruelling training that goes into preparing for the ride while juggling work and family. And organizing community fundraisers before the ride begins. And visiting Camp Goodtimes to meet the very youngsters they’re riding for.

Year after year, we hear from first-time riders who tell us they believed they were prepared for the ride, only to be blindsided by the rush of emotion that pours out when they see the response at a community seafood dinner and auction in remote spots like Port Alice or Sayward. Or the generosity of donors such as Parksville octagenarian Joan Lemoine, who while on a fixed income is capable of raising thousands of dollars each year from the community by shaving her own head. Or a first-person story from cancer survivor Olivia Davis, the Qualicum Beach teen who gamely fought to continue playing hockey with her teammates while undergoing debilitating chemotherapy.

“Training for seven months prepared us physically, but it didn’t prepare us for the emotional aspect of it,” said Nick Mandryk, a 2015 Tour rider from the Saanich Police.

Black Press rider Arnold Lim said much the same thing when he first rode in 2013, yet he’s returned for a second try this year.

The bald head has remained a central feature of the Tour de Rock and the three other Cops for Cancer tours that have sprung up across B.C., from Lemoine’s voluntary annual shave to Davis’s cancer-caused hair loss. Those of us who wish to keep our hair can perhaps find a little something else to contribute. It’s not for the cops. It’s for the kids.

— Parksville Qualicum Beach News