Oak Bay High principal Dave Thomson has a knack for whipping his students into a frenzy.
Not that they needed any extra help, knowing that the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team riders would soon be rolling in – their arrival Thursday morning was announced loudly to the packed gym by a line of police motorcycles with sirens blaring.
The riders were near the end of their 14-day Island-wide journey to raise funds to pay for cancer research, summer camp for young cancer patients and survivors, and to acknowledge the health battles families face in every community on Vancouver Island.
Once things calmed down and the presentations started, the emotion was palpable.
Oak Bay Police Department Reserve Const. Jarrod Christison, the force’s lone rider on the Tour de Rock, found himself choked up with the level of support the students afforded he and the team.
“We ride bikes from the top of the Island down, but without your support, without all your effort, none of this would have happened,” he told them. “We just would have been a bunch of cops in spandex riding down the Island.”
The impact of cancer was not lost on such a young group. At one point someone asked how many people in the room had lost or known someone with cancer – the vast majority raised their hand.
The unveiling of the school’s campaign total, left till nearly the last, contained all the drama and suspense of the old TV fundraising telethons.
Campaign co-leaders Liam McDonough, Cathleen Evans and Danica Robirtis ripped numbered sheets off an easel representing how many children would be sent to camp – which was the school’s baseline goal. It was clear from their expressions they sensed the total dollars raised when they reached the number 30.
When the number – $45,229 – was unveiled, bedlam reigned in the gym. The amount bettered last year’s school record figure by almost $2,000, a fact that left Evans in shock.
“Last year they made a lot money … We thought we’re never going to be able to do that, so our big focus was ‘let’s make it about the (number of) kids (to camp).’ That’s 30 kids to camp,” she said.
“Especially with (junior rider Daisy Irwin of Sooke) there, it was overwhelming. I’m just so proud of everybody, all my group leaders. The entire school, it’s like crazy that all these kids will do that (to help) 30 kids. It’s a lot of time and effort but it’s definitely worth it.”
The students engaged in numerous fundraising events, from an eight-hour relay, to silent auctions to in-school activities. With Oak Bay High having built a tradition of getting behind Cops for Cancer in recent years, students have a template for success.
“The best thing about this is that it’s 98 per cent student-driven,” teacher-sponsor Chad Jacques said.
“It’s my highlight of the year and I love seeing what they do, what they work towards and the growth they go through throughout the event. (Seeing) the looks on their faces and the cheer in the crowd when the number of kids was revealed and the amount of money we raised was revealed – I was overcome with emotion. And they earned it. It wasn’t given to them, they had to work hard for it.”
The Tour riders moved on to Sidney later Thursday and wrap up their ride Friday with stops in Esquimalt, Saanich and back to Victoria for the finale, starting at 4:30 p.m. in Centennial Square.