Biking to benefit quality of life

Tour de Rock fundraisers and events highlight inherent generosity of Islanders

Ray Bernoties

In the absence of an Oak Bay Police Department rider in the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock this fall, Ray Bernoties has been “adopted” by the community police, despite his role as Chief Superintendent Island District Commander, Island District RCMP.

After nearly 24 years as a police officer – primarily with the RCMP – when he transferred to Victoria area 18 months ago, the Tour de Rock was already on his radar.

“There are other [Cops for Cancer] Tours in the province but I had already heard about the Tour de Rock. It was on my to-do list when I moved to Victoria,” Bernoties said.

“It’s an incredible team, but the whole community really embraces the Tour de Rock. I find it has infiltrated the culture of the Island, far beyond just a bunch of cops riding bikes.”

An Oak Bay resident who’s eldest son enters Grade 1 at Willows elementary this fall, he already had work demands on his time that limited him to squeezing in a little T-ball and soccer coaching in the community.

Diving into the Canadian Cancer Society fundraiser was a family decision, with support from his wife Carol as well as sons Trevor, 6, and Dexter, 4.

“You dedicate your life for that six to eight months to the Tour, it required a family commitment,” he said.

On a personal level, he recalled about 15 years ago, when a young RCMP corporal inspired him run marathons. Sadly, despite being in his early 40s and seemingly healthy, he died of cancer, leaving behind his wife and daughters.

The loss inspired Bernoties’ early fundraising initiatives. In 2006 and 2008 he raised money by participating in ironman triathlons – swimming 3.86k, biking 180k and running 42.2k – raising just over $13,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.

“I had put it away and moved on to other activities. Not long after that my sister was diagnosed with cancer,” he said.

While she’s well now, he realized his work there was not done and he joined the Tour.

Training is rigorous, even for an avid cyclist.

“I think I had underestimated the training, but our trainers train us to a level that will make the actual Tour de Rock enjoyable.

“They take us up to a level of ability that will ensure success,” he said. “They’re ruthless but they’re amazing.”

For the Tour, each rider is paired with a youngster facing or in recovery from cancer. Bernoties spoke with his junior rider’s mother, who was in Vancouver with her child in hospital.“I let them know that I’m there for them,” Bernoties said.

But he did meet a bunch of upbeat youngsters at Camp Goodtimes, a resource funded by the Cops for Cancer bike rides. “It’s amazingly an incredibly happy place and you don’t expect that. They were dunking us and putting pies in our face and making us shake our bootie,” he said. “It was a great experience.”

Following tradition, he’ll shave his head during the Tour stop at Oak Bay High, where staff and students raised more than $40,000 last year.

“The other Tours in the province all added up together don’t raise as much as the Tour de Rock does and it speaks to a couple things. One is the great organization and history here, but also the generosity of folks on the Island. The Island is a uniquely compassionate culture. The Oak Bay area specifically is quite generous.”

Learn more and contribute at tourderock.ca.