Since assembling to begin their training six months ago, the riders in the 2016 Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock have become a family.
As such, they have earned some family nicknames, including RCMP Cpl. Brady Mathison, the tour’s oldest rider at age 56.
“He’s the Tour dad,” said Jaleesa Nardino, 26, an auxiliary constable with the Duncan RCMP detachment. “He helps me load my bike, work on the bike, pump up the tires …”
” … Helps her do her homework,” teammate Daryl Major deadpanned.
Mathison, a member of the Port Alberni RCMP detachment, is a former member of the Oceanside detachment who still makes his home in Qualicum Beach. He and the four other riders from the mid-Island loaded their bikes and gear bags Saturday morning at the Parksville weigh station for the trip north to Port Alice, where the Tour began Sunday morning.
The annual ride, which has raised millions of dollars for pediatric cancer patients and research, will take the 17 riders and their support teams the length of Vancouver Island to the finish line in Victoria’s Spirit Square on Oct. 7.
The Tour de Rock makes its annual Parksville Qualicum Beach stop Thursday with a burger and beer event at Quality Resort Bayside. The event, to be held from 6 to 8 p.m., will give the community a chance to meet the riders, hear testimonials and raise money through head shaves and donations.
“I thought the fundraising was going to be the hardest part for me; it’s totally outside my comfort zone,” Mathison said. “But I wanted to challenge myself, for the kids and their families. It’s been amazing to see how much people are willing to give.”
For years, Mathison saw Tour de Rock recruiters visit detachments where he worked, and said he always “admired the whole concept.” But the benefit for childhood cancer victims went from an abstraction to a personal matter when his teenage niece was diagnosed last summer — on her birthday — with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“I happened to be at the detachment when (the recruiters) dropped in to do their presentation,” he said. “And I thought, ‘There’s no reason you can’t do this.’”
The Tour de Rock team will make brief stops at Oceanside Elementary School and at Thrifty Foods in Parksville during their arrival from the Comox Valley Thursday. After spending the night, the riders will tackle Highway 4 and the infamous “Hump” to visit Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet before returning to Hwy. 19 for the final push to Victoria.
Tickets for Thursday’s burger and beer night are $20 and are available at Quality Resort Bayside, Parksville Chrysler and through any Rotary Club of Parksville member.
For more info or to follow the tour, visit www.tourderock.ca or www.facebook.com/Cops for Cancer – Tour de Rock.