For Cst. Stefanie Wainman, participating in the 2018 Cops for Cancer – Tour de North was personal.
Wainman’s grandfather, Bob Mackie, passed away in 2016 after a battle with lung cancer. She said he was her number one fan, biggest supporter, introducing her to sports at a young age.
“He was always the first one to attend my events, to drive me to my games and my practices and give me support when I needed it,” she said.
As Wainman prepared to complete the 850 km, seven-day ride from Prince George to Prince Rupert, she said her grandfather was in her thoughts as well as the countless other people whose lives are affected by the disease. Riding, she said, is a way to fight back and bring hope.
“There’s not a single person that doesn’t know someone that’s been affected by cancer,” she said. “We have to give back to the community that takes care of our loved ones.”
Wainman has been an RCMP officer in Prince Rupert for nearly two years, but her journey to the city of rainbows began in Calgary where she grew up playing field hockey.
Wainman developed into a standout player who played for the province’s field hockey team for five years from the time she was 18 until she turned 23. She said she was attracted to the speed of the game and the skill required to play it.
She said she also developed close relationships with her teammates during this time.
“It was just exciting,” she said. “You get to meet new friends and you get to be a part of a team, which is something I enjoyed doing.”
In addition to being an excellent player, Wainman was also a standout coach, who helped guide her high school team to back-to-back city titles.
Wainman graduated with a degree in criminal justice in 2008 before applying to the RCMP training academy in Regina. She said being a police officer is something she wanted to be from the time she was a young girl.
“I think it was seeing the police officers in my community and looking up to them,” she said. “Being a small child and seeing the uniforms and the equipment and the car was always cool.”
The road to the academy was a long one, and Wainman worked for the town of Okotoks for eight years while waiting to be accepted. Despite the delay, she knew it was the profession she wanted.
She was finally admitted into the program in 2016, but the moment was bittersweet. The day before she began her training in July of that year, Wainman’s grandfather passed away after succumbing to his lung cancer.
She said the news was difficult as he had always been her biggest supporter, but she also knew that he wanted her to realize her dream as much as she did.
“He knew I’d been accepted and how much it meant to me, which was the most important thing,” she said.
Wainman entered the academy where she began the intense fitness and tactical program set out for new RCMP cadets. She said it was a surreal feeling to be closer to her goal after eight years. She relished in the experience despite the hard training.
“Most of the time you had to pinch yourself to make sure it was real,” she said.
Wainman graduated in December, 2016 and was immediately deployed to Prince Rupert, where she had to adjust to life away from the family and friends that she knew in Calgary.
“It was an exciting time, but it was a bit sad because I’d lived in Calgary for so long,” she said.
Wainman heard about Cops for Cancer – Tour de North shortly after arriving in Prince Rupert, and immediately knew it was something she wanted to be a part of. She signed up for the race with fellow officer Cpl. Devon Gerrits and the two began training and fundraising for the ride.
The pair consistently logged 100 km per week in the lead up to the event, and even racked up 228 kilometres in one week. Wainman said she enjoyed the process of getting prepared and said it helped to integrate her more into the community.
“It’s been a good mental break from work,” she said. “And it’s allowed me to get to know new people.”
On Sept. 14, Wainman, Gerrits set off on the ride alongside retired officer Bob Killbery, former Prince Rupert resident Sgt. Jennifer Collins and 26 other riders from northern B.C.. The group battled cold weather and rough terrain, but they were able to complete the journey in Prince Rupert on Sept. 20. In total, this year’s ride raised $195,400.
Bob would be proud.