Aubrey Blackhall has been pulling for Tour de Rock since he was in high school.
Each year from Grades 9 to 12, the Oak Bay High grad raised money and shaved his head to support the cause. Now, the 21-year-old reserve constable with Oak Bay police is getting an opportunity to ride.
“I was really nervous going into the selection process, because I knew that, as a reserve constable, maybe I wouldn’t have the kind of standing that other officers would,” says Blackhall, who has been a reserve officer for a year and a half. “But it seems like what they really wanted to see was that your heart was in the right place.”
Blackhall’s heart is there. The young rider lost his grandmother to “an ugly, three-year battle with cancer” when she was only 63 – a loss that motivates him on this ride.
Victoria police Const. Marie Bourque has also seen the toll a disease can have on loved ones. In 2001, she learned her father was failing from frontal-lobe dementia and would lose most of his motor skills very quickly.
“Even though family is No. 1, caregiving is so tough,” says Bourque, 40. “My dad was 60 years old, which is young, but at least he had 60 years. Caregiving for a child – I just couldn’t imagine that, and what you’d have to go through.”
Tour de Rock is a fundraiser that benefits children living with cancer and their families, which helps the riders put things into perspective.
“We’re all here for the same reason: we’re all gunning for a cure,” says VicPD Const. Mike Russell. “I’m a huge believer of trying to get the kids to have some sort of normalcy when they go through their treatment. This is about finding a cure for cancer. This is about not losing any more kids to cancer.”
Russell, 33, a father of three, says meeting kids who are going through cancer and are the same age as his children takes an emotional toll.
“I really want to get to know these kids we’re fighting for, their families, on a more personal level. To get to know them will add another level of motivation for me,” he says.
Tour de Rock has raised almost $18 million for the Canadian Cancer Society since 1998 – money aimed to fund pediatric cancer research and support programs for kids and their families, like Camp Goodtimes.
“I get the most gratitude from helping people, and I want this to be the year that cancer ends. Whether or not that happens, I can help a lot of kids get to camp,” Blackhall says.
Bourque says she’s riding to support families who have to go through the emotions of seeing their child go through treatment.
“What’s not fair is that life has to strike any kids with illness. Kids just want to be kids. They want to move forward and not get stuck in all that,” she says. “They may have struggles, but you can’t see it on their faces. You might get tired (riding), but then you realize the effort you will put in. How could you not? They are your inspiration.”