Fond memories of junior rider René

Emotional, physical challenges just the start, more expected as Tour gets underway

Alison Wood

The cause, always an emotional one, is particularly poignant for Oak Bay’s Alison Wood and her fellow Tour de Rock riders this year.

Funds from the Cops for Cancer fundraiser help go toward research for pediatric cancers, including research to help children thrive after cancer treatments and to support children and families living with cancer to attend Camp Goodtimes where they can just be kids.

The 2015 Tour team visited the camp July 21, several days after Wood’s junior rider René Soto attended.

Nine-year-old René died in the early hours of July 23 in the arms of his parents.

“As sick as he was, he enjoyed a canoe ride and making some bracelets,” Wood says.

Even while the youngster’s mom held a Kleenex to stem bleeding from his nose, René made bracelets.

“It was that important to him. Some of his last memories were there,” Wood says. “Being at Camp Goodtimes was amazing for all of us.

“The loss of one child, is one too many,” she adds after a moment.

Even before she met him, René and kids like him were among the reasons the 29-year police officer wanted to do the Tour. The Island District RCMP Staff Sergeant has wanted to do the Canadian Cancer Society fundraiser since being posted to the Island a decade ago and of course, everyone has a personal connection.

“Cancer hit my family very fast and furious,” she says. In May 2013 her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She died in July that year.

“She was a healthy 80-year-old. She worked out at the YMCA five days a week and she had her senior fit classes and aqua size classes,” Wood says.

“I was proud of her. She started working out when she was in her 70s.”

Wood is starting a little earlier than her stalwart mom. She started preparing early for the physically demanding ride from Port Alice to Victoria.

“Being 54-years-old and keeping up with the 20-something riders, that has been a challenge,” she says.

“I joined a gym prior to the training just to get up to a fitness level but the riding itself has been a challenge.”

Those long training days followed by the weeks away from home come September, has an effect on the family unit.  “I’m amazed at my family, at how everyone’s behind me and supporting me in different ways. It’s been very, very good,” she says. “Everyone’s gotten involved,”

Even her 84-year-old dad is involved, the kids and husband are picking up the slack and “doing the stuff moms usually do.”  And her sister co-ordinated two fundraisers, one at home in Calgary and one on summer holiday in Osoyoos.

Wood says she’s always believed one person can make a difference, if only in the world of a few.

“It’s so worth it. It is an amazing journey. It’s so worthwhile to know the sense of community that is amongst the RCMP and the other forces and the community itself. How everyone supports the Tour de Rock is just incredible,” she says. “It’s incredible that there’s still more to come.”

To learn more or contribute, visit tourderock.ca.