The Quality Inn Bayside was packed with cancer survivors, their supporters, family, friends and Tour de Rock riders on Thursday for the annual Beer and Burger Night.
The event saw all but one ticket sold, and thousands of dollars donated towards the Tour de Rock cause: pediatric cancer research and support programs for children, such as Camp Goodtimes.
By the end of the night, $21,341 had been raised through group and individual donations, head shaves and a silent auction presented by Quality Inn Bayside and the Rotary Club of Parksville, and dinner tickets.
The money adds to the more than $23 million that’s been raised since Tour de Rock started in 1998, but what riders and attendees of the event will go home remembering will no doubt be the stories of hardship, perseverance and loss that were shared.
Beth O’Connor, a Port Alberni RCMP officer from Qualicum Beach, said she was told that participating in the ride changes you, and at the event in Parksville, added that “it has already.”
While the camaraderie between riders is a treasure, and getting to rally communities around such a worthy cause is exciting, one of the biggest impacts on O’Connor has been the stories she’s heard from kids and parents about their connection with cancer.
“It’s very impactful to meet a parent that’s lost a child,” she said, as well as kids who have lost brothers and sisters, and those who’ve come out of their battle cancer-free.
Some of the stories are unexpected, said O’Connor.
She recalled one parent she’d met the day before, who had talked about how Camp Goodtimes had probably saved her marriage — providing a reprieve for her child with cancer, as well as a chance for her and her husband to reconnect.
One story shared at the Parksville event was that of Olivia Davis — a Qualicum Beach hockey player who, now 17 years old, is a cancer survivor.
At 13 years old, Davis was told by her doctor she had cancer, and that the disease had already taken over 84 per cent of her bone marrow.
Remembering the moment she was told, Olivia said, “I actually laughed.” After all, athletes like her don’t get cancer.
Nonetheless, she had to undergo two and a half years of treatment, receiving 10 different types of chemotherapy.
To show just how much that is, Olivia brought a necklace that held one bead for things like a dose of chemotherapy, for a needle poke or a blood transfusion. Laid out, it’s 22 feet long, she said.
It was a desire to get back on the ice that pushed her through the experience, she said. Now, she’s playing for the Vancouver Island Seals AAA team.
Olivia also spoke positively about Camp Goodtimes, the Loon Lake getaway in Maple Ridge that offers a safe, fun program for kids and teens affected by cancer to be together and feel like they can be kids again.
Olivia, along with a friend, has raised $2,300 for Ronald McDonald House, and, along with her hockey team, raised $1,600 for Camp Goodtimes, plus $500 for pediatric cancer research with a bake sale.
Supporting Camp Goodtimes was certainly the focus for well-known local fundraiser Joan Lemoine, who has raised more than $25,000 by getting her head shaved for Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock over the years.
Lemoine and Darlene Thompson were the two people getting their heads shaved.
Thompson raised $2,400 for this year’s event, while Lemoine raised $7,500 in the hopes of sending five kids to Camp Goodtimes. That number increased as members of the crowd gave her more money as her head was being shaved.