Looking Back: Cops for Cancer rides have their roots right here on the Island

Tour de Rock was a Saanich cop’s dream that became a reality

Victoria police officers Murray Kennett and Suki Dhesi pose with their bikes before the second-ever Tour de Rock ride in 1999 in this Victoria News photo. A Saanich officer dreamed up the ride the year previous and the Tour has gone strong since – now in its 14th year.

What started out as a germ of an idea in a Saanich police officer’s mind was the start of an annual campaign that has raised tens of millions of dollars province-wide to help support kids with cancer.

It was now-retired Saanich constable Martin Pepper who first proposed the idea of having law enforcement officials cycle the length of Vancouver Island after wanting to do something more than a head shave.

In September 1998, the first Tour de Rock was held.

“I was invited to join the team and work with Martin to help train the team,” said Staff Sgt. Penny Durrant with Victoria police. Her background as a track, mountain and road cyclist was what the team needed to help them prepare for the ride. “The thing with the first year was we were embarking on a project that we really didn’t know how it would go – other than we were riding bicycles down the Island and hoping people will get us money.”

That first year, Durrant said, was “really successful.” The team raised $312,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society and Camp Goodtimes.

After the first year, Durrant said she recalls having discussions about whether or not a similar ride could be held again. “We wondered if people would donate again.”

And they did. Now in its 14th year, Cops for Cancer has grown to include four different rides provincially – Tour de Rock, Tour de Valley, Tour de North and Tour de Coast – and is even more successful than it was in its first years. Last year’s Tour de Rock raised $1.4 million.

Durrant remained on the steering committee for the first 11 years of the Tour, training the team members for the ride, too.

“It’s always been a very emotional event. And most people go through this, they train March through September thinking they’re training for a bike ride. Really, they’re training on bicycles to get through a journey,” she said. “It’s not about the bike, it’s about the kids and their families and the journey and the teamwork and the support from family and friends. It’s truly the community behind them.”

Durrant said she’s honoured to have been part of Cops for Cancer since essentially Day 1. “To know that something I was involved in and helped develop alongside a team, to see the benefits from something like this, all the money raised, that’s a great feeling.”

For the 21-year veteran of Victoria police, she’s thrilled to see just how successful the Tours continue to be, especially since the motivation, the reason behind the ride, has never changed.

“It’s simply raising money to help save the lives of kids and to support their families. It’s not about the cops, it’s not about the police departments, it’s about (kids and families) and seeing a community contribute to that,” she said.

“And for a cause like this, that’s a given. That should happen regardless of us riding bikes.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com

Enter to Win!

You could win a prize package from Trek bicycles! The package includes a Trek bike with clip-in pedals and shoes, a helmet, and a signed Tour de Rock jersey. To enter, visit the Black Press office at 818 Broughton St. to fill out a form, or enter online here. Winners will be drawn Oct. 7 and notified by email.

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

Just Posted

PHOTOS: A morning in a physically-distanced Victoria

Residents commute in a pandemic-changed city

‘Someone knows something’: a look into Vancouver Island missing persons with interactive map

There are more than three dozen people listed as missing throughout Vancouver Island

Summer program helps Greater Victoria teens sharpen writing skills

Registration for the program runs until Aug. 17

Saanich bylaw sparks EV charging infrastructure requirements in new builds

All new developments to be EV-charger compatible starting Sept. 1

Langford cuts red tape, engages in random acts of kindness to uplift spirits

‘I Am Langford’ campaign promotes supporting local

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Shellfish industry get funds to clean up at Island sites and beyond

Businesses can apply to cover half of costs to clean up so-called ‘ghost gear’

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Most Read