It has been an incredible two weeks for cops on the Tour de Rock.
The annual Cops for Cancer fundraiser, which saw more than 200 police officers bike through dozens of Vancouver Island communities, came to a close on Friday, with the officers raising $1.13 million for pediatric cancer research and support programs.
For Reserve Sgt. Nick Mandryk of the Saanich Police, the 1,100-kilometre ride was, at times, gruelling physically, but also took an emotional toll on the riders.
“On our first full day of riding in Port Hardy, I met and spoke with a young guy who is 14 who had just been diagnosed with cancer and was getting treatment for a large tumour in his brain,” he recalled. “It was really impactful, and to start a huge tour like this on day one and have to come face to face with someone dealing with that at such a young age, it was a pretty hard thing to get over.”
Mandryk said he and the other riders were “overtrained” in the seven months leading up to the Tour de Rock so that the physical challenges would become second nature and they could better handle such emotional stories from people along the way.
“We didn’t really have to worry about the physical part because the emotional part was going to be a fairly heavy undertaking,” he said. “That’s probably the next biggest thing, if not the biggest thing, the emotional side of it.”
The Tour de Rock rolled through such cities and towns as Campbell River, Qualicum, Nanaimo and Sooke, with many stops at local schools to greet students and gather donations.
In Saanich, Reynolds secondary showed tremendous support for the ride, raising more than $52,000 with its annual head shaving fundraiser.
Mandryk said the response from the communities – big and small – has been huge for them.
“There are a lot of places that we go to, especially North Island, that have been a part of this whole thing for some 18 years now,” he said. “When we have five or six kids, they go absolutely crazy, but at the same time, they’ll come out with an $800 cheque.
“It’s just an amazing response that we get from the communities.”
While meeting new people was one of the highlights of the ride, Mandryk said prior to the tour’s end that he was looking forward to seeing some familiar faces back in Saanich.
“I haven’t had the chance to really see my family, my wife and daughter, for the last two weeks or so, so I’m looking forward to getting in touch with them again,” he said. “At the same time, we’ve been travelling now for 12 days or so and we’re kind of on home turf. A lot of these places that we go to – schools, businesses, community events – there’s a lot more people I will know.
“It will kind of bring things full circle for me.”