Emotional night at Bayside

Rotary-organized event produces heartwarming stories and thousands of dollars for cancer research as Tour de Rock riders reach Parksville

  • Oct. 1, 2013 6:00 p.m.

OFF WITH THE LOCKS: Not only did Oura Giakoumakis

BRENDA GOUGH

NEWS Contributor

 

You may notice quite a few people with larger foreheads after several head-shaving events in Parksville Qualicum Beach Thursday after the Tour de Rock rolled into town.

At a Rotary Beer and Burger fundraiser at the Quality Inn Bayside Resort in Parksville, Corporal Jesse Foreman of the Oceanside RCMP shaved his head for the cause and in just one night raised $4,300.

Foreman, who is part of the Tour de Rock team currently cycling from one end of Vancouver Island to the other, introduced his fellow teammates and shared some stories from the road before he went bald.

Foreman is among the top three fundraisers on the team of 22 riders and he expressed his gratitude to a number of his supporters when the team was in Parksville last week.

And while Foreman nears the end of the 14-day epic journey, having reached his $25,000 fundraising goal, he admitted he has struggled at times to keep his spirits high.

Foreman said his heart is heavy because on day two of the tour he found out that his junior rider has had a setback in his battle with cancer.

Everyone on the Tour de Rock team is partnered with a junior rider ­— a child cancer patient or survivor, for a kind of mutual-mentorship. Foreman’s junior rider is five-year-old Lucas Wetklo of Nanaimo and Foreman said the news of his outcome came as a shock to him.

“We just found out that the cancer has moved to an area of the body where they can’t operate.  They thought the cancer was gone. They can’t remove the tumor so they are keeping him stable and comfortable,” Foreman explained.

He said the news has put everything in perspective.

“We meet a lot of kids with success stories but we need to remember the other stories … and that is what is keeping me going.”

The hospitality and the welcomes that have greeted the team in each community it has rolled into is also what keeps Foreman and his fellow riders going.

In Parksville alone, the community raised more than $33,000 for Camp Goodtimes which gives young people with cancer the chance to enjoy a fun holiday with other children in similar circumstances.

The fundraising event included several emotional head shaves.

Oura Giakoumakis confessed that she wasn’t sure about losing her locks, but she decided to do it in honour of her nephew, who is a cancer survivor.

Not only did the owner of the Thalassa Restaurant at the Qualicum Beach Memorial Golf Course go bald, she raised a huge amount of money ($19,250.50) for pediatric cancer research and programs for children with cancer.

Part of the funds generated from the event will enable 600 kids to attend Camp Goodtimes for free. It costs $1,500 to send one child to camp for one week.  The camp is a place where kids can put the trials and tribulations of cancer on the backburner for a few days and share in the magic of summer camp with other kids who have lost their hair or limbs.

Fighting back against a disease that strikes the ones you love is what motivates Giakourmakis. She and her sister-in-law Kalli Bourodemos know first hand how childhood cancer affects the entire family. Bourodemos has a teenage son who is a Luekemia survivor and who Giakoumakis said has truly been an inspiration.

“Georgios has taught us to be strong and we are privileged to have him in our family.  He got cancer when he was two and he is now 14 years-old … 12 years cancer free,” she said.

She reported that her nephew is doing well but what the family went through on their cancer journey was difficult.

“It was devastating. They lived on the Island and at the time they were going to Vancouver for treatment so they had nobody to go over there.  They weren’t able to stay with us so they stayed at Ronald McDonald House so Kalli was by herself.  Her husband stayed back here to work and she was over there with her son making all the decisions.”

She said it is hard to even grasp what a family goes through and every situation is different.

“That is why I support this cause because kids don’t have a choice.”

As for Georgios, she said he is in Grade 9 and everything is fabulous.

“He is a normal teenager … he has his first girlfriend, plays sports and he is happy.”

Giakoumakis won’t be the only baldy at home.  Her nine-year-old son Yianni decided to shave his head for the cause at the Bayside on September 26.

He said it is the fourth time he has gone bald to support his cousin.

The Grade 4 Arrowview student plans to wear the official Tour de Rock hat he received from team member Andrew Waddell to school unless of course his mom wants to borrow it.

In the last four years Giakoumakis and her crew at the Thalassa Restaurant has raised a total of $83,000 for the cause.

Parksville Qualicum Beach News Publisher Peter McCully and his team mates Joan LeMoine and Dr. Neill Neill said they were overwhelmed by the support they receives.

LeMoine, who has faced the shaving shears more than a few times, generated more than $4,000 resulting in a team total of $6,900.

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