It was one of the first things we learn as a team.
One team member takes the lead yelling, “Hey, Camp Goodtimes, how do we feel?” Followed by the entire Tour de Rock team answering: “Awesome, awesome, very awesome,” in unison – culminating with a cheer and an animated fist pump.
Four months into training for the 1,000-kilometre Tour de Rock trek along Vancouver Island, “The Cheer” seems as part of the tour as the rides themselves. Equal parts energizing, especially after a long training ride, and team building, it is a staple after every training ride, alongside a round of friendly fist bumps, handshakes and hugs among team members.
I realize now, however, that I didn’t truly understood what it meant until I visited Camp Goodtimes.
Sixty kilometres east of Vancouver in Maple Ridge, nestled along picturesque Loon Lake across hectares of lakeside cabins, lodges, a camp kitchen and numerous play areas including a WildPlay-type outdoor climbing area, is the sprawling camp many children with cancer yearn to go every year.
The summer recreation camp for children and teens with cancer and their families, is a place where kids can just be kids, regardless of medical history or circumstance. Here they live and play – mostly play – among those that know and understand at a campground featuring medical supervision, on-site support and travel assistance to and from the camp at no cost to participants.
When a child is diagnosed with cancer, the entire family is diagnosed, and the variety of different programs offered at Camp Goodtimes include activities where parents can stay with their young children or take time for themselves.
It is a week or two out of the year, that many children, some of whom spend as much time at a children’s hospital as they do at home, look forward to every year.
It was here, crowded into a lodge packed to the brim with children and my Tour de Rock teammates, where it is as likely to see colourful writing scrawled in crayon as it is neatly printed computer fonts, where I truly learned why the fundraising from Cops for Cancer, Tour de Rock was so important and reaffirmed why I wanted so badly to be a part of it.
I learned at Camp Goodtimes, the children learn “The Cheer” early on, a chant of both solidarity and energy among children who are given respite for a short period at a place and can forget about their illness and just have fun. It was here, after an evening filled with playing and spending time with the staff, volunteers and campers, where I truly heard the cheer for the first time.
I thought it was a pretty impressive sound when 22 riders chime in, in unison, driving their fists in the air and pumping their arms, but here at Camp Goodtimes, moments before we boarded the bus and left Camp Goodtimes, the cheer rang out once more.
The sound is still imprinted in my head. The sheer volume, escalated by voices both big and especially small, rings in my ears every time our team performs it at the end of our rides.
Despite having done it many times before and after, I remember hearing it like I had never heard it before and may never hear again. It was awesome. Very awesome indeed.
Arnold Lim is a Tour de Rock rider for Black Press.