WATCH: It’s a two-week, 1,000-kilometre bike ride from one end of Vancouver Island to the other. And it’s raised millions of dollars to support children with cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society’s Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock started twenty years ago. As Mary Griffin reports, Saturday’s ride started as an idea that turned into something special.
It started with a march.
First responders, corrections officers, emergency personnel, walked to the Bay Centre in October 1997.
In that group 20 years ago was Victoria Police Const. Derek Tolmie.
“In 1996, I was on the job for about a year and a half when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at 56,” Tolmie said.
It was a huge impact on me. I wanted to do something to support her.”
So Tolmie’s idea for a fundraiser was getting first responders to shave their heads to raise money for cancer.
It’s overwhelmingly popular, and the 188 who took part raised $125,000.
At a meeting that night, Victoria police officer Martin Pepper had an idea and told Tolmie.
“Martin stood up and said, we’re going to ride our bikes down Vancouver Island. It’s going to be awesome,” Tolmie recalled. “And I remember thinking, ok. He’s crazy. There is no way this will work.”
Before that first ride, Derek Tolmie and Peter Dawson reached out for help to The Q’s and CHEK Weather Specialist Ed Bain.
“I said, well, I think it’s a horrible idea. Because I think once you take it out of the city, the event is going to die,” Bain said.
But the event not only didn’t die with help from media partners, Ed even rode in it 2007.
CHEK News sports director Jeff King took part in 2002. At the time, King said he was ready for the challenge.
“There’s 33 of us heading up island. It’s an amazing feeling right now,” King said.
The first year the ride raised more than $360,000.
In total donations on Vancouver Island is $22 million.
This ride spawned three others in BC, for a total of more than $40 million raised.
Tolmie says it started with a group of people who wanted to help.
“We all came together at one time. So it wasn’t really one person,” Tolmie said. “It was a group effort by a diverse group of people who came together at the right time.”
Twenty years ago, this first group of riders created something special for children battling cancer.
For more information on the ride that starts Saturday, visit the Tour de Rock.