Lorelei Jefferey did her first Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley last year.
It was everything she expected, and a whole lot more. It was grueling, riding a bike hundreds of kilometres over nine days. It was both mentally exhilarating and exhausting, hearing stories of cancer battles won and lost.
The experience affected the RCMP officer far more than she ever thought it would.
When she was back home in Chilliwack with her three healthy children, Jefferey struggled to put it behind her.
And yet, when the Canadian Cancer Society started filling out the roster for this year’s Tour de Valley, Jefferey was first in line.
“You spend time on that emotional roller coaster, and I held my little people tighter when I got home,” she said. “You cry on your bike and carry Kleenex in your pocket and it’s one of the saddest things you can do. But it’s also one of the most rewarding things you can do.”
Each year, the CCS puts out a call to RCMP officers, municipal police, border agents, sheriffs and correction officers, soliciting applications for the Tour de Valley. Twenty-two are selected, getting their bikes in April.
The Tour is a primary fundraiser for Camp Goodtimes. Set among the trees at Loon Lake (Maple Ridge), Camp Goodtimes provides fun and free summer recreation for children and teens with cancer, plus their families.
“They get to go and be kids, playing and swimming, basketball and campfires,” Jefferey said.
Each individual rider commits to raising at least $5,000. At last check, the team as a whole had topped $100,000.
On Wednesday night, the team sat down with cancer survivors for one last ‘pep talk.’
The Tour started Thursday morning.
“Before last year’s Tour, I was oblivious to the emotional impact because I’d never talked to parents and children who’d gone through the pain of battling cancer,” Jefferey said. “You hear those stories and can’t believe some people have had to endure that, and you just can’t help but have tears. But it gives us serious motivation, because going up the hill in Boston Bar might hurt the muscles but it doesn’t compare to chemotherapy.”
The team’s journey takes them as far west as Tsawwassen and as far east as Boston Bar.
They’re in Chilliwack bright and early Monday morning.
Each day, they stop at local schools, talking to students about healthy choices and cancer prevention.
“We sing songs and dance and make fools of ourselves. We all have horns on our bikes, and we all have ‘player cards’ that we sign and give out to the kids,” Jefferey said. “We try to make it positive and fun, but we also tell them that the reason we’re there is because there are little people just like them who are suffering from cancer. They probably don’t completely get the seriousness of cancer. But at the same time, it makes them think.”
On Chilliwack day, the team will visit Rosedale middle school (8:20 a.m.), Vedder elementary (9:35 a.m.), Unsworth elementary (10:05 a.m.) and Ecole La Verendyre (10:35 a.m.).
Jefferey has three daughters at Unsworth.
“Last year, I didn’t realize I was allowed to ask for specific schools,” she said. “I’m awfully excited about visiting their school. Nine days is a long time to be away from your own little people, so it’ll be really nice to see them.”
They know how important this is to their mom because she’s shared some of the stories.
“My own father was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and he’s a success story,” she said. “He got his clean bill of health while I was riding last year.”
Jefferey’s children know all about Grandpa. Their mom has also shared some cancer stories that haven’t ended well.
“Hearing the stories of children fighting and getting sicker and not being able to go to school anymore, it’s heart-wrenching and it makes me feel very, very lucky that I have three healthy children,” Jefferey said. “They’re the saddest stories you could possibly hear from a family, but wherever we go, they make the effort to come out and see us. And that’s why we do it, because they really need to know we’re there supporting them.”
Get more info at copsforcancerbc.ca/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1052319