The Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock has raised well over a million dollars for childhood cancer research and local rider Cpl. Jesse Foreman said it was a "amazing and life-changing experience."
Foreman returned home and right back to work at the Oceanside RCMP detachment this week, but the money is still rolling in after the 1,000 km cycle down the length of Vancouver Island with 15 other law enforcement and media riders.
"You hear all the stories but until you're involved you don't really make sense of it, what the communities and schools and families do," he said of the big reception along the way.
The reception all the way down the Island ranged from someone waiving them down with a few dollars and a story to events like their arrival at Reynolds High School in Saanich.
"Something like 15 per cent of the students had shaved their heads, including girls who were graduating, it was really overwhelming," Foreman said. "We walked in to loud music and cheering and all the shaved students stood in two lines and we walked through this progression of shaved heads and people tearing up."
Because all the the money goes through the Canadian Cancer Society to research and provide services for children with cancer, there is a strong connection between the ride and the youngest supporters.
"When we stopped at schools where a student was dealing with cancer, they were really plugged into the issue," he said.
"To a young person, their grandparents, someone like my 61-year-old father-in-law who has cancer, is just another old person, but someone their own age is a lot different, easier to relate to."
The Tour de Rock team took a trip to Camp Goodtimes in Maple Ridge in July to see one of the more fun projects the money goes to.
The camp provides a nearly normal summer vacation for children with cancer, complete with medical staff volunteering their expertise.
"It's great, the kids get to be kids, they're running around without their hair, or with IVs just like any other kid at camp."
He said just as importantly there's a family camp where parents get some respite and know they're children are having fun and are well taken care of.
Before the big ride, Foreman said he was inspired "to get involved by looking at my own healthy kids and when I saw some who weren't healthy I wanted to do something."
But while he went into it thinking about his children, things came into focus in a different way the day they left for the big ride after months of training and fundraising.
"My father-in-law had felt a bit ill and the day we were leaving he got the results back that he has leukemia."
He has now been in the hospital for two-and-a-half weeks and they're still trying to figure out exactly what form of the disease he has.
That close connection is important to everyone who participated in the ride Foreman said, pointing out that everyone had their own unfortunately close relationship to one of the world's most common killers.
He said he was friendly with all the riders before they left, but after spending every waking minute with them, under some tough conditions and hearing all of their stories, "they are all family members now."
And the riding conditions did get tough. Their two longest days, 140 and 150 km, both happened to be into the coldest, hardest ,driving rain of the two-week ride, he said.
Foreman has said before though that their effort is minor compared to what some people with cancer go through, and he was happy to be able to take part and thanks everyone who supported them.
"I really want to make sure to thank all the people who came out and supported us and donated," he summed up.
As of Tuesday, the ride had raised over $1.175 million and Foreman said it was still coming in.
His personal goal was to raise $25,000, which he was worried might be too ambitious. As of Tuesday, more than $70,000 had been donated through his account, including $15,000 raised in the tiny North Island community of Sayward where Foreman served before Oceanside, and more than $30,000 donated through various campaigns at the Rotary beer and burger night when the tour stopped in Parksville.
To donate, or for more information on the ride, of which Black Press and The NEWS are sponsors, go to www.copsforcancerbc.ca/tourderock/JesseForeman.