Spectrum principal gears up for a cause

Five-day, 500-kilometre trek will raise funds for Tour de Rock

Rob House

Rob House

He may not be able to give blood, but Rob House will be putting a lot of blood, sweat and tears into his own 500-kilometre ride in support of the Tour de Rock.

The Spectrum Community School principal is already well into his five-day trek from Port Hardy to Saanich, raising money for the upcoming Tour de Rock. The inspiration behind his personal journey is three-fold, as a way to support those living with cancer, honour those who’ve beaten it, and remember those who lost their lives to it.

“A couple things kind of happened,” said House prior to the ride. “We have a parent, Mena Westhaver, who is a guest rider. She has four boys, one of whom is a cancer survivor.”

When Westhaver told House about her son Jack’s battle with cancer and her involvement with Tour de Rock, he said that got the wheels turning, so to speak, on how he could raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society.

“In the meantime, I’d been thinking of going to the north end of the Island anyway,” he said. “My wife and I were going to do a bit of travel.

“I’ve been cycling most of my life – not competitively, I’m a weekend warrior – so I thought it would be neat if I could ride parts of it and turn it into a bit of a fundraiser in support of Tour de Rock.”

The second part of the inspiration are his friends and family who have survived cancer, namely his mother and her husband, who each beat the disease.

“My mom is a survivor of breast cancer twice – she’s a fighter anyway,” said House. “Her husband just came out of prostate surgery with flying colours.”

Lastly, House said he wants to honour the memory of John Fawcett, an educator in the school district for more than 30 years, who passed away in 2014 after a seven-year battle with multiple myeloma, a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cells.

“He’s a good buddy of mine who wasn’t so lucky,” said House. “He was a great principal. We worked together for four years at Mount Doug.”

After Fawcett’s death, the Victoria Principals and Vice-Principals Association started an annual blood drive in his honour. House said he couldn’t donate the first year as he had recently been on a cruise in Mexico, and new rules around the Zika virus delayed his donation in the second year as he had just returned from a trip to Hawaii.

When he went to donate a few weeks later, he psyched himself out, noting he has a history of getting light-headed or fainting from previous attempts to give blood.

“I was just so disappointed,” recalled House. “I really wanted to do this in honour of John.

“Even the nurse said, ‘I just don’t think you’re a candidate for giving blood. Maybe there’s something else you could do.’ That’s what crystallized turning riding from Port Hardy to Victoria into my own little Tour de Rock and raise some funds.”

Between online donations, cash and cheques, House already has raised more than $3,500, well beyond his expectations. And while 500 kilometres in five days is going to be a “tough grind,” he said his training has prepared him for the long haul.

“People tell me, ‘You could take longer,’ but it’s got to be a challenge,” he said. “I wanted it to be a struggle, so I wanted to do it in a shorter period of time.”

Donations are still open for House’s ride. To donate or for more information on the trek, visit http://bit.ly/2aK5gld (case sensitive