Last years Victoria Fire Department cycling team took on the 200km Ride to Conquer Cancer on the mainland. This picture was taken right after the team crossed the finish line. (Photo submitted by Jeff Cullen)

Victoria Fire Department honours three former chiefs with Ride to Conquer Cancer

Gala For Hope takes place June 15, ahead of the 200 km ride

In a sea of hundreds of cyclists the mood seems light at first glance. People are smiling and laughing but there’s a reason the Ride to Conquer Cancer draws a huge crowd every year.

For Rich Fryer of the Victoria Fire Department, the event has as many emotional up and downs as the hills he and the fire department’s cycling team have ridden for the past two years.

“We’ve lost three chiefs … in three years, in Victoria alone,” says Fryer.

RELATED: Victoria Fire Department battles cancer with Gala For Hope

Doug Angrove, a former fire chief, was diagnosed with brain cancer and eventually succumbed to the disease in May 2017. While Angrove was in the midst of his battle, Fryer went to see him in the hospital and knew he needed to do something that would make some sort of an impact.

At the same time, Richard Couch — another former chief — wanted to do his part and chose to do the 200-kilometre ride with the rest of the team. Six months later, Couch was diagnosed with cancer and died a short time later.

Stan Thame, retired battalion chief for the department, also died in December 2018 following a battle with cancer.

“You’re there, having a good time, riding with all our buddies and then you hear the stories and it comes back to the reality of why you’re actually doing it,” says Fryer. “You realize why people are putting so much energy into it.”

The Gala For Hope, happening on June 15, is the main fundraiser the Victoria Fire Department takes on before heading to the Ride to Conquer Cancer that happens on the Lower Mainland in August. The name takes on a special meaning as the 200-km ride ends in the community of Hope.

READ ALSO: Victoria Fire Department hosts ride for World Cancer Day

Jeff Cullen, of the Victoria Fire Department, says that while it’s an emotional experience, it’s a cause that hits home for most of the firefighters.

“Our chief was literally in the hospital sick and trying to fight cancer,” says Cullen.

“There’s never going to be a better time [to take this on] than when we’re having to go visit someone in our career who’s dying so that really spurred the whole thing.”

Firefighters have a nine per cent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14 per cent higher risk of dying from cancer than the general population, according to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network.

“We look after ourselves a lot better than the older guys did because we’re more aware of the issues, but our fires are also more toxic than theirs,” says Fryer.

For Fryer, the ride takes on another meaning as he lost his best friend to brain cancer in 2004. After experiencing headaches, Fryer’s best friend went to the doctors. While waiting in emergency he had a seizure and two weeks later he died.

“He didn’t even know he had a tumour,” says Fryer.

For more information on the Gala For Hope or to purchase tickets visit eventbrite.ca.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Donated sculpture in Sidney’s Beacon Park a testament to perseverance

Victoria artist Armando Barbon picked up sculpting 22 years ago

Greater Victoria businesses come together to help Island kids

Langford Lowe’s raises funds for youth mental health all month

Sidney builds community resilience through neighbourhood gatherings

Meet Your Street needs residents to create gatherings, safe interactions

‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man will walk from Hope to Saanich for Indigenous healing, reconciliation

James Taylor departs Sept. 20, returns to Saanich in five days for sacred fire

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

POLL: Do you plan on allowing your children to go trick or treating this year?

This popular annual social time will look quite different this year due to COVID-19

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Application deadline for fish harvester benefits program extended

Those financially impacted by the pandemic have until Oct. 5 to apply

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

Most Read