Roberts, who organizes kids programming and oversees the nature houses at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, is the only Parksville Qualicum Beach resident taking part in the tour this year. The team consists of 22 riders from around Vancouver Island.
She said she was thrilled when she got the invite.
“I received an email this year inviting me to be a special guest which is amazing. It’s a huge honour, there’s only one or two special guests every year,” Roberts said. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and the owner of our company was like, ‘absolutely we will make this happen.’”
Tour de Rock isn’t new to Roberts, who has helped organize several fundraising endeavours for Cops for Cancer over the years.
Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park hosts the event Tour de Parks each year which includes kids activities and bike rides in the park, with all proceeds going to Tour de Rock in its effort to assist with pediatric cancer research and to fund young cancer victims’ trips to Camp Goodtimes.
“Camp Goodtimes allows (the kids) to have that same experience with the doctors and nurses and the support that they need,” Roberts said. “We sort of aligned ourselves with fundraising for Tour de Rock.”
Since its inception in 1998, the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock has become Vancouver Island’s number one fundraiser and has raised more than $22 million to help kids with cancer. The team of police officers and special guest riders cycle from one end of Vancouver Island starting in Port Alice to Victoria; more than 1,100 km.
The whole journey, Roberts said, is about the kids.
“Those families, they’re going through the worst battle of their life, they don’t get to choose when that happens, it’s never the right time to have a child get cancer,” she said. “I also have nine nieces and nephews who are phenomenally healthy. I can’t even imagine what families go through. The thought of one of those little people getting cancer is unimaginable to me.”
Training for the tour began in March and riders are now practising three times a week. Roberts said she’s always been athletic but has only dabbled in cycling.
“I’m more of a runner,” she said. “I love doing athletic things so that side of it isn’t as much of a challenge.”
Roberts said the emotional component of the tour will likely be the more challenging part.
“It seems like once you do the Tour de Rock you’re always involved, so we end up talking a lot with previous year’s riders getting a lot of feedback from them about what to expect. Basically, they all say the actual physical component is a challenge and weather is a factor, but they all say that the biggest part of the journey is that it’s super emotional,” Roberts said. “Every part of the journey you’re stopping and hearing stories and interacting with people. We’ve got our junior riders that are our inspiration, we’re always thinking of them when we’re riding. I can only imagine that it’s going to be a lot on the heart and mind as well as being physically a bit of a challenge.”
Roberts has two junior riders, a young girl from Nanaimo and a young boy from Parksville. She said cancer has also touched her family.
“I lost my grandfather (to cancer) when I was five. There’s been lots of times where cancer has touched my family or near network,” Roberts said. “ My dad just battled cancer a couple of years ago.”
Roberts hopes to raise $15,000 and has some upcoming fundraisers planned.
“The main thing that we’re doing here in the Park is we have Tour de Rathtrevor. We have two events; Wednesday, Aug. 1 and Saturday, Aug. 4 and those are big family focused bike riding events,” she said. “Then we have every Tuesday night in (Rathtrevor) Park we’re running our movie night.”
Roberts said barbecues throughout the summer will also be planned and she’s hoping to make as many appearances at community events as she can in between training.
The ride begins on Saturday, Sept. 22 in Port Alice. Riders will cycle through Parksville on Friday, Sept. 28.