Olivia Davis is a 14 year-old from Qualicum Beach who has earned her place on a regional rep hockey team.
This, in itself, is quite a feat for any young athlete. Davis, however, is one year into a battle against cancer and faces at least another year of system-sapping chemotherapy treatments. She gave an inspirational speech Thursday to a packed house at The Bayside, gathered to greet the riders of the Tour de Rock and raise money for Cops for Cancer.
“I will not let this experience break me because I am stronger than cancer,” said Davis to applause and more than a few teary eyes in the crowd. “Look at me — I have cancer, I’m still undergoing treatment and I’m playing rep hockey.”
More than $20,000 was raised on Thursday night in Parksville in an event organized by the local Rotary Club. Tour de Rock spokesman Steve Robinson, himself a cancer survivor and former Tour de Rock Rider, said Cops for Cancer has raised $19 million in 17 years.
Much of the money goes to helping children attend Camp Good Times, a place, as Robinson explained, where children fighting cancer can be free of needles for 10 days or use their prosthetic leg as a paddle in a kayak race without having to endure odd glances.
“We are winning, but we have not won,” said Robinson. “We can’t make every parents’ nightmare go away. But we are here together because we care, because we love.”
Davis knows a lot about winning. She has acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“When I received the news, I couldn’t breathe,” she told the 200 people in attendance on Thursday night. “I was just playing hockey the weekend before.”
Davis spoke about her journey with chemotherapy.
“There have been times chemo kicked my butt, I can’t lie,” she said. “My hair used to be very long. I really miss it, but I’m rockin’ the bald look, right? It is important to stay strong and stay optimistic. I have chosen to stay optimistic.”
The Tour de Rock’s local riders, Oceanside RCMP constables George Minshull and Jordan Reid, joined Davis in the bald club on Thursday night, along with Thrifty Foods employee Karen Little, having their heads shaved to raise even more funds. Prior to that, one by one, representatives of various businesses and organizations came forward to present Minshull and Reid with cheques from recent Tour de Rock events.
Robinson may have summed up all the efforts when he spoke about children who are fighting cancer and those, like Cops for Cancer, who are trying to help them through the battle.
“We create light, we create memories, we create hope,” said Robinson. “They are warriors, we are their army.”
For updates on the Tour de Rock, sponsored by Black Press, which concludes in Victoria on Friday, visit www.pqbnews.com or www.tourderock.ca. For more photos from the event, visit www.facebook.come/PQBNews.