14 Years and Counting: A Tour de Rock volunteer finds a new reason to give back

Tour de Rock, Sidney, Julie Harman

Sidney RCMP Const. Kyle Martell

Julie Harman is gearing up for her 14th year as organizer of the Tour de Rock  celebrations in Sidney, and it’s unlikely she’ll give it up anytime in the foreseeable future.

“That’s why I don’t want to quit because you get to a point where you can do it with your eyes closed,” said Harman.

She tried once and learned her lesson.

Back in 2008, she passed her volunteer torch to someone new, so she could focus on doing well in a medical course. With one week to go before the big event, introducing the riding team, the new volunteer backed out via email.

“I thought, oh dear god … what am I going to do?”

Harman had no choice. Juggling both duties, she delegated what she could.

“We pulled off the event and it was great,” she said.

This year, the Sidney woman is scaling back her involvement. On Oct. 6, she’ll oversee 10 volunteers to host the welcome reception as the Tour de Rock cyclists pass through town on the second last day of their tour of Vancouver Island. It involves a parade, head-shaving, donut and hot dog sales and more.

The emotional impact of the day never fades for Harman.

“Year after year after year I get the same chills when they ride into town,” she said. “Every single year I get goose bumps and get tearful. I have so much respect for what they do for the kids.”

All the funds raised by the cyclists and the community go to pediatric cancer research.

Harman’s gratitude for having three healthy children, and two healthy grandchildren (soon to be three) fuels her commitment to the work. Her duties were especially difficult in 2000, when Harman lost her dad to cancer one month before the event.

This year she has a new reason to help make the annual fundraiser a success.

She dedicates her upcoming event, On Oct. 6, to Henry Down. The 20-month-old belongs to family friends and was diagnosed Aug. 14 with cancer.

“He’s now facing an uphill battle in the Children’s Hospital,” Harman said.

People are always so generous to this cause, she said. “Why should a child so young go through something so nasty?”

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