The sky was threatening all afternoon last Thursday, as the expectant Prince Rupert welcome wagon gathered outside the Crest Hotel for the 30 Cops for Cancer Tour de North riders to pull into their last stop on the 860km journey from Prince George.
But it held out just long enough for a dry passage for the bikers. The first rain drops hit the pavement just as the last wheel hit the parking lot of the hotel at 5 p.m. – right on schedule for the punctual police.
It’s become quite the scene every year for Prince Rupert residents, whose town serves as the final stop for the long and arduous seven day journey to raise funds for cancer research.
Thirty of the greatest men and women you’ll ever meet fight the elements, their own limits, and the evils of the disease, which has affected nearly everyone in the community in some way or another.
They whiz by the wavers and welcomers and into the sheltered parking space of the Crest, where they promptly exhale, exhausted.
Dismounting their bikes, there are hugs, tears, joyous laughter and a feeling of unity – 30 brothers and sisters brought together by a single cause, and finally done this gruelling test of athletic ability – no small feat even for some of the police officers in peak shape.
All together, and as of late last week, the riders had raised close to $300,000, a milestone that Erin Reynolds, community giving coordinator for Cops for Cancer Tour de North is proud to reach once again, she said at the welcoming ceremony Thursday.
Three Prince Rupert riders, Bob Killbery, retired Rupert RCMP member, Bob’s daughter and current member of Prince Rupert RCMP Jennifer Collins, and community rider Michal Sluka took part in the ride this time around. It was the third time for Killbery and Collins, and Sluka rode for his mom, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and has undergone a series of chemotherapy. Sluka also rode for his grandfather, who passed away after battling skin cancer.
“I haven’t seen my mother in a few months. She underwent her last chemotherapy treatment and when I saw her I barely recognized her,” Sluka said last week.
“She was thin and had lost her hair, but I made so many great friends this week [on the ride] and hearing everyone’s stories helped keep us going,” he said, adding that Killbery and Collins provided him with sound advice at all legs of the journey.
The 150km trip from Terrace to Prince Rupert, completed with two short breaks on the last day of the trip, was frequently cited as the riders’ favourite when all was said and done.
“It’s my second home. I love getting out here any chance I get and I’d move here if I could,” said retired Williams Lake RCMP member Dave Dickson in the bikers’ closing remarks. Other members said the same and noted Rupert lived up to its liquid sunshine reputation.
For Killbery and Collins, who celebrated her birthday the day they rode into Prince Rupert, the trip remains similar for the most part each time they’ve performed it.
“I think it’s the same, but every year you have new experiences about why you ride. Whether it’s family members or people you meet along the way – this little boy we met at Cowpuccinos, he’s just a little guy and the things he’s dealing with, no kid should have to deal with,” Collins said.
“We’ve met families along the way who have dealt with cancer or have children that are battling cancer and you think about what they’re going through. It makes any discomfort you might be feeling feel pretty miniscule in the scale of things,” said Killbery. “When you’re going up a long hill, it provides the motivation you need.”
Collins’ mom and Bob’s wife, Bev Killbery was beaming with pride when the bikers tore past her.
“Bob and Jen started [training] at the end of January, just indoors with the indoor bikes, and by April they were out on the road,” said Bev. “I’m very proud of them. They’re so dedicated to doing it. Riding after work and getting up at 7 a.m. in the morning on Sundays and not coming home until 1:30, sometimes 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon.”
The team is still totaling the 2016 final tally.