Biking may have just been a hobby for Devon Gerrits when he was younger, but in a few weeks, he will be strapping on his helmet and pedalling across northern B.C. for a greater purpose.
The Prince Rupert RCMP officer will be participating in the 2018 Tour de North Cops for Cancer ride with other members of the police force.
Alongside fellow officer Const. Stephanie Wainman and Bob Killbery, Gerrits will ride 850 kilometres from Prince George to Prince Rupert over seven days from Sept. 14 to 20.
“It’s been a pretty cool thing to be a part of,” said Gerrits, shortly before going on a 100-kilometre training ride. “I just want to do my part and give back and this is a pretty neat way to do it.”
While he has gotten used to the regular grind of cycle training Gerrits’s introduction to sports was on the ice and the soccer field. He said he has fond memories of his father, James Gerrits, taking him to the pond behind their house to play together.
“He’d always be back there shovelling off the pond and helping me to tie up my skates,” Gerrits said. “So those were good memories for sure.”
Gerrits played goalie in hockey and was a striker in soccer, but eventually took up the sport of single-track mountain bike racing when he was in high school.
“One of my best friends at the time was into mountain biking and saved money and bought a nice cross country mountain bike,” he said. “I had to save up and get one when I saw that.”
The racing community in Nova Scotia was tight knit, and Gerrits said competing and racing gave him an opportunity to see different parts of the province and meet new people.
It was during this time that Gerrits formed a love for policing, something he would eventually turn into his career.
“I always looked up to police officers growing up,” he said. “They were able to do lots of cool things that I wanted to be able to do growing up, and I wanted to help people.”
After graduating from high school, Gerrits spent a year in university where he played for the varsity soccer team before applying to the RCMP academy in Regina. He was soon accepted and began his training in 2008.
While he was pursuing the profession he had always wanted, Gerrits said it was challenging getting used to living in a new environment so far away from home.
“It was hard not being close to friends and family,” he said. “I would always look forward to receiving care packages from home and receiving the mail.
“The cadets who were on mail duty were always hounded the most out of anyone.”
Gerrits’s first posting after graduating from the academy was in Terrace, a city that was almost as far away from home as possible. By this time, he had learned to embrace and adapt to change, and was looking forward to the challenge.
He decided to drive the distance, packing all of his belongings into his car and making the trip over seven days.
“My favourite parts were definitely the drive through Jasper,” he said. “In Nova Scotia we don’t really have mountains so that was cool to see for the first time.”
Gerrits spent five years in Terrace before moving to Prince Rupert in 2013. Having grown up on the East Coast, he said the city reminded him of some of the smaller fishing towns he grew up in.
“I’d come here to visit for the day every so often, and I liked it,” he said.
In the five years he has since spent in Prince Rupert, Gerrits said he heard about the Tour de North ride, but didn’t participate. Then in May of 2017, he got a call from his father who told him he had prostate cancer. Even though his dad was able to get treatment and send the cancer into remission, Gerrits said having the disease affect a family member made the fight personal for him.
“Seeing my dad go though it gives me the inspiration to do this and give back for the treatment and the research,” he said.
As a part of his fundraising effort, Gerrits went back to Nova Scotia to build a shed with his dad. Once it was complete, they sold it and contributed the money to the Tour de North Cops for Cancer ride.
“Dad said he was happy and inspired to be doing it,” Gerrits said. “I’ll be thinking of him along the ride as well as any of the other people who have been affected as well.”