On Thursday morning, rain or shine, the Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley ride to fight childhood cancers will launch its nine-day, 800 km ride, in Langley.
It will mark Langley RCMP Const. Craig van Herk’s 10th year of involvement. He hasn’t ridden for the past several years, but has been behind the scenes organizing and providing support along the way.
Despite the incredible number of hours it takes away from family time, van Herk said he likely will be involved for another 10 years — for one very good reason.
“When you meet a kid going through all the horrible things cancer brings to them and you see them smile — well that’s just it for me.
“A smile from a child is great motivation to keep riding, to keep fundraising.”
And raise funds, police do. Last year, Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley raised $420,000 for pediatric cancer research and for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Camp GoodTimes.
Over the years, Cops for Cancer across B.C. has raised more than $27 million, much of that also going to support families.
“We interact with these kids and you realize how important the ride is. They have experienced more than all of us and they smile through it. Their courage . . . the way a child takes on cancer is like nothing we adults could do.”
This year there are 10 junior team members either going through treatment or working through recovery.
The ride, that kicks off at Aldergrove Secondary, will see cops ride for nine days, covering 800 km of road and speaking at dozens of schools.
They will travel through several communities including Surrey, Delta, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Maple Ridge, Mission, Hope and Boston Bar.
Unfortunately, the tour has five memorial stops to honour junior members who have died of cancer, said van Herk.
Aldergrove’s Teresa Sperger will again greet the Cops for Cancer riding team at Shortreed Elementary in memory of her son Christopher, who passed away six years ago after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was a student at Shortreed.
Hanging in van Herk’s office is a framed picture of Sperger and him.
Sperger was one of the first junior members van Herk got to know and shared a bond with.
“Christopher was a really special kid and losing him has been really tough,” said van Herk, a father of two.
Each police officer, auxiliary member and emergency personnel involved in the ride has to do their own fundraising through the year, through car washes, head shaves, barbecues, and any fundraisers at the detachment. Community sponsors also give generously with donations, said van Herk.
Mark Peterse, an auxiliary officer who co-owns the family-run Cedarbrook Bakery in Brookswood, had done all his fundraising and training and was ready to join the ride again this year. But two weeks ago, he was called to training at the RCMP’s Depot in Regina.
“We don’t use any of the donor money for accommodations or food along the nine days of riding,” said van Herk.
That means they hope for sponsors like hotels to put them up. But for a few of the nights on this tour, they will be sleeping on the floor of a rec centre.
“After riding 135 km in a day, a bed is really comforting but we recognize we aren’t here for our comfort,” he said. “Even riding in the rain, which is what we mostly do, is nothing compared to what these kids go through.”
The 26-member team and their full police escorts will visit six schools and several community locations, including the Coast Capital Walnut Grove and 200 Street branches.
If you would like to make a donation visit copsforcancerbc.ca.