The Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team was cheered through the West Coast over the weekend and a Ucluetian rider infused a romantic twist into his hometown’s celebration.
After introducing his fellow riders to the community at a headshaving fundraising event at the Ucluelet Co-op on Saturday, Ucluelet Fire Chief Rick Geddes called one of his most monumental supporters to centre stage before getting down on one knee and proposing to his now-fiance Donna Monteith.
“I was cautiously optimistic. I had a good feeling that she was going to say, ‘Yes.’ She’s been mentioning the ‘M word’ a little bit lately and I’ve sort of tried to downplay things knowing what was to come,” Geddes told the Westerly News. “I couldn’t be happier…I’m just the happiest man in the world knowing that she said, ‘Yes.’”
He said he had reached out to Tour de Rock organizers to bring them up to speed on his plan and asked for their permission as he wanted to be careful not to take anything away from the ride’s philanthropic cause, but received their blessing and was told no rider had ever proposed on the journey before.
“We really are soul mates…She’s just an amazing woman,” he said. “She’s really embraced my family, my family has embraced her and we just bond together. It was meant to be.”
Monteith told the Westerly the couple met in Ucluelet and have been together for three “amazing” years, adding she was “absolutely shocked” when he proposed.
She said she had initially thought Geddes was going to thank her for her fundraising support.
“When I saw him get down on one knee I immediately knew he wasn’t thanking me for fundraising; he was actually probably going to ask me to marry him and I was super excited about it. I’m very, very happy to marry him,” she said. “Rick is a man of honour and respect and integrity. I see what he does for the community and his family every day of the week and I just know that he’s somebody I’m happy to spend the rest of my life with…I’m still trying to get over the shock of it all, but I’m super excited and now I have a wedding to plan.”
Tour de Rock is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and the Ucluelet stop marks the halfway point of their 1,200 kilometre ride across Vancouver Island, raising support for paediatric cancer research and to help send kids to Camp Goodtimes, which offers experiences to children and families affected by cancer.
Ucluelet has two hometown riders on the team as Geddes is joined by B.C. Ambulance Unit Chief Rachelle Cole, who is currently leading the team’s fundraising efforts, having brought in about $60,000 so far.
Cole told the Westerly the experience has “exceeded her expectations in every way.”
“I am surrounded by supportive, loving people everyday. I am seeing the Island from a different view than I would ever have dreamed of,” she said. “We’re rolling into communities and I’ve been crying several times a day at every stop. The support across the Island and at the schools, I’ve never seen anything like it and will probably never experience anything like it again. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Cole is a third generation Ucluetian and said her emotions ran high as she rode into town with her teammates.
“I’m at $60,000 coming out of the West Coast communities as of this week and I have never felt more supported. We’re very fortunate that we live where we live. We love where we live and we take care of each other. I couldn’t ask for more. I’m crying here today because of the amount of effort that friends, family, colleagues, coworkers, everybody that’s pitched together to help me get the training down and to help me do the fundraising,” she said. “It’s about being here and having the opportunity to just be grateful to be in a community that’s given so much to the Tour.”
Prior to the town’s annual headshaving celebration, the team dished out appreciation plaques to the Ucluelet Co-op, which raised $1,060 at a barbecue immediately prior to the riders’ arrival, as well as the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade.
“The Co-op is such a generous organization and (Co-op general manager Laurie Gehrke) is just amazing. To raise over $1,000 in just a few hours is beyond words,” Geddes said. “I’d really like to thank the community for its support. Typically Tour de Rock doesn’t have two riders from one town, especially a town the size of Ucluelet, but the way this town has really supported both riders is just amazing. It’s what we figured would happen, but still it’s amazing that it does happen and to see that community support. We’re just very thankful.”
He said the team began training in March and is reaping the benefits of the hours spent cycling through cold spring days.
“We just kept training and kept moving forward and all that training is really paying off now because the ride has really come together,” he said. “Every day we’re getting stronger and stronger together.”
He added the team has an “amazing support team” keeping them on track as they cycle from town to town basking in each community’s embrace along the way.
“Every community is so different, but so amazing,” he said. “It’s just amazing the support we’re getting.”