Parksville volunteer firefighter Kirk Wolstenholme is excited to ride in the 2023 Tour de Rock and raise funds for life-saving childhood cancer research.
He and the team, made up of 19 law enforcement, first responders and media riders from around the Island, will spend the next four months training and fundraising as they prepare to cycle 1,200-kilometres over two weeks this fall.
“I thought it would be a good fit. My wife and I have got a two-year-old daughter, so it kind of hit home,” said Wolstenholme, who joined the Parksville Fire Department approximately three years ago to help out his community.
He and the three other mid-Island riders have been training together informally since March. Lately they have been riding three days a week.
A partnership between Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) and emergency services personnel, Tour de Rock will also raise funds for Camp Goodtimes, an essential program that gives families of children diagnosed with cancer the opportunity to spend time together in a stress-free and medically supervised environment.
Wolstenholme, who grew up in Slave Lake, Alta., said he has run a few marathons and completed some five-day biking trips, but this will be his first time being part of a bigger cause.
“Last year there was a guest rider, Adam Fras, who’s a city councillor, came and gave a bit of a presentation to the fire department,” Wolstenholme said. “And I thought, ‘well that would be fantastic,’ so after the ride wrapped up last fall I reached out.”
He has been encouraged in his training so far, building camaraderie with the other riders. The training period is lengthy and geared towards preparing a person with minimal biking experience to cycle up to 150-kilometres in a day, Wolstenholme said.
“You know, you’re going to be living with the fellow riders for two weeks, so you’re developing some potential lifelong friendships,” Wolstenholme said. “Just seeing the impact that you’re having on some of these families that are going through some of these challenging times with their children — is definitely going to have a profound impact.”
An estimated 1,050 children (from babies to 14 years old) in Canada were diagnosed with cancer in 2021, according to a news release by CCS, which has invested $16.4 million toward the cause over the last five years. Although the five-year survival rate for childhood cancer has increased to 84 per cent, up from 71 per cent in the 1980s, two out of three children diagnosed with cancer will suffer long-term or late side effects from their treatment.
Cops for Cancer hosts four cycling tours in B.C. every September in regions across the province – Tour de Rock, Tour de Coast, Tour de Valley and Tour de North. In 2022, the four events raised a total of more than $1.5 million.