Amanda McRae is preparing for the ride of a lifetime.
The Tofino firefighter, paramedic and massage therapist was recently announced as a member of the Tour de Rock Cops for Cancer team, which will cycle over 1,000 kilometres across Vancouver Island from Sept 23 to Oct. 5, stopping in roughly 27 communities along the way to raise support and awareness for paediatric cancer research.
The ride also generates funds for Camp Goodtimes, a weeklong experience for children and families battling cancer.
McRae, who lost her father Ron McRae to cancer in November, told the Westerly News the cross-Island journey will be an emotional one.
“I’m probably going to cry a lot. I’m still going through the grieving process. To see kids that have shaved heads or have lost their hair from cancer and just seeing families so affected; it’s also fuel to continue riding, even though your legs are sore and it’s pissing rain,” she said.
“[My Dad] lived all the way in Ontario, so there was only so much I could do and so much time I could spend over there. I felt pretty helpless,” she said. “I knew that Marcel in Ucluelet was doing this Cops for Cancer ride and I was like, ‘Well, I can’t join the team this year, but I can help him’…So I rode my bike from Tofino to Port Hardy in three days. Just a solo bike ride; me and my bike. I didn’t know what to do, so I just got on my bike and I rode.”
McRae has lived in Tofino for nine years and has been a competitive cyclist for the past four. She said she initially got into the sport as motivation to quit smoking.
“I had my moments where I would quit smoking for a year and then I would start again. My dad was battling cancer for three or four years and that was another motivation. It was when my Dad first got diagnosed too. He was a smoker and I was a smoker,” she said. “My brother [Ron Lamoureux] was a hardcore triathlete at the time and I was like, ‘I’m going to do a triathlon.’ You can’t be a triathlete and smoke cigarettes, so that’s what got me into it.”
She said she trains year-round putting in up to 20 hours per week.
“I’m the weirdo that’s always on my bike anywhere from [Tofino] to Ukee, and Port Alberni,” she laughed.
As a member of the Tour de Rock, McRae has been teamed up with two junior riders in Port Alberni who are currently battling cancer.
“I get to hear their story and get inspired and get motivated,” she said. “Everyone has been touched by cancer…It’s hard to deal with and, for me just losing my Dad, to think about knowing a child who is going through this crazy battle, it’s nice to be able to do something.”
She said she is currently putting together a host of fundraisers and her primary motivator will be sending as many children to Camp Goodtimes as possible.
She said it costs $1,500 to send a child to the camp, which she touted as a hugely valuable experience.
“It’s not only for the child but for the family,” she said.
Tofino Fire Chief Brent Baker said McRae is a perfect representative for the West Coast.
“Amanda is an amazing individual. She goes above and beyond and she’s always looking at taking on extra courses and increasing her knowledge so she can pass that on to others as well. We love people like Amanda over here,” he said. “I wish there were more opportunities for our community to get behind our residents and really support them, cheer them on in doing the amazing things that they’re doing.”
Anyone looking to support McRae’s efforts is encouraged to check out her fundraising page.