The sound of First Nations drumming and thunderous applause from a standing ovation welcomed 21 Canadian Cancer Society Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock riders to Esquimalt High School this morning.
For many of the 850 staff and students in attendance including Grade 12 student Annie Do, their visit was an inspiration.
“My goal is to be a doctor someday and cancer research can help,” said Do, 17. “I think it is important to understand what (cancer patients) go through and respect that.”
Friday marks the final day of the Vancouver cycling tour, which raises funds for pediatric cancer research. The Tour de Rock team includes police officers and media riders from across the Island. The tour began in Port Alice on Sept. 24.
An organizer of the school fundraising effort, Do helped present a $2,300 cheque to the riders as they made their final push.
“Our school tried hard,” Do said. “Even though we didn’t raise as much as others in the district, we really put our heart and soul into it.”
Rider Chris Bush reflected on the support of young students.
“No matter how many schools we visit, it still amazes me how much this means to people,” the photojournalist from Black Press said. “It is going to be hard to believe it is all over at the end of the day.”
Moments later, a short ride up the road, waving flags and a town crier welcomed the riders into Esquimalt Plaza where dozens of supporters cheered the team into the parking lot where applause filled the cool air.
“You are our heroes and the beating heart of Canada,” the crier called out with a tip of his hat before welcoming Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.
“I love the Friday when you ride in every year,’ she said before presenting $2,373.59 from a bike spinathon. “Every year we have a crowd out welcoming Tour de Rock. The community feels very engaged with this event … And Esquimalt salutes them.”
Bush, tears welling up in his eyes, found it hard to put words to his feelings as he prepared to pull away.
“It is a very emotional journey,” he said. “It is way beyond anything I expected. There is no preparation for the emotional, the physical , the journey and the experience. It is way beyond anything we expected.”