By Tricia Weel, For the North Delta Reporter
It’s easy to enjoy summer and everything life has to offer – when you’re young and healthy.
For the hundreds of children who are diagnosed with childhood cancer across Canada each year, life involves a lot more doctors and hospital visits and cancer treatments than lake or beach or waterslide outings.
That’s why law enforcement and emergency services personnel are gearing up to ride in this year’s Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley.
A partnership between the Canadian Cancer Society and local first responders aimed at changing the future of childhood cancer, the Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley is an 800-kilometre cycling tour across the Fraser Valley that happens Sept 21 to 29.
“I think that everyone has had cancer impact their lives, whether it be a friend, a colleague or family member,” says Delta Police Department Const. Kimberly Loeppky, who is participating in this year’s Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley alongside her DPD colleague Const. Terra Schmuland and 33 other law enforcement and emergency services personnel.
“One of my main inspirations for signing up for Cops for Cancer were my peers. I’ve spoken with countless co-workers who had participated in previous years and I was told that the experience was truly one of the most meaningful and impactful things they had ever done. After listening to their experiences (with Cops for Cancer), I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Now in its 25th year, Cops for Cancer first began in 1994, when Sgt. Gary Goulet of the Edmonton Police Services met Lyle Jorgenson, a then five-year-old boy who had cancer. After learning he was being ridiculed at school because of his hair loss due to chemotherapy, Goulet rallied his colleagues and they all shaved their heads in solidarity with Jorgenson.
In 1997, the first Cops for Cancer cycling event, Tour de Rock, took place with 12 officers cycling from one end of Vancouver Island to the other.
Today, Cops for Cancer has evolved across the country and now involved four cycling tours in B.C., with hundreds of participants raising nearly $50 million towards changing the diagnosis of childhood cancer since its inception.
Participants engage local communities and schools en route to raise funds for life-saving childhood cancer research and a national support system for children living with cancer and their families and caregivers.
Last year the program raised $1.2 million, despite logistical challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Canadian Cancer Society is the largest national charitable funder of childhood cancer research in Canada and an advocate for better support for families,” says Ninon Daubigeon, senior manager, signature events at Canadian Cancer Society.
“None of the work we do would be possible without the Cops for Cancer program and our partnership with first responder agencies across the province.”
Riders who participate will cycle between 80-120 km each day during the fundraising event, with all of them – a 35-member team total – training for the past eight months, both privately and as a group.
For Loeppky, who was born and raised in the Lower Mainland and has been with the DPD since 2020, one of the main reasons she became a police officer was to have a meaningful impact within the community.
“One of the main reasons I wanted to work for Delta Police in particular was because of the close ties the department has with its community,” she says, noting she had limited cycling experience before signing up for Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley.
“I had never ridden a road bike before, nor had I ever used clip-in shoes. This was certainly a new challenge for me.”
Being consistent with training, especially while balancing a busy work-life schedule, has been important, Loeppky notes, and she’s proud of the progress she has made in road cycling over the past several months.
Her friends, family and co-workers have all been so supportive, she notes, especially those who have participated in the cycling event in the past.
“I think the main reward is seeing how impactful the fundraising has been on the children that we support,” she says.
“Being able to make connections with the children and their families has such an impact on all of the riders.”
Tour de Valley will kick off in Langley on Sept. 21. During the nine-day ride, Tour de Valley will visit the following communities:
Day 1 – Langley | Fort Langley |Aldergrove
Day 2 – Abbotsford
Day 3 – Chilliwack
Day 4 – Chilliwack | Aggassiz
Day 5 – Hope | Boston Bar
Day 6 – Mission
Day 7 – Langley |South Langley | White Rock | South Surrey
Day 8 – Delta
Day 9 – Surrey
Anyone wanting to learn more about the program or make a donation through Loeppky’s or Schmuland’s page can visit www.tourdevalley.ca.