West Coast local Gaylene Thorogood is getting ready to rock this year’s Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock.
The 2016 Tour de Rock cycling team features 14 RCMP members who will ride roughly 1,000 kilometres from the north end of Vancouver Island to its southern tip, stopping in roughly 27 communities along the way, to raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research.
Black Press is a key sponsor of the initiative, which also raises money for Camp Goodtimes, a weeklong experience for children and families battling cancer.
Over 300 RCMP officers have participated in the ride since its inception in 1998, raising over $20 million for the cause, and Thorogood is stoked to join that list of heroes when this year’s ride kicks off on Sept. 24.
“I’m super excited,” she told the Westerly. “I want to make a difference. I’m able bodied and I’m healthy and this is one way I can give back and contribute.”
She added cancer touches many hearts.
“At some point in our lives, we’re all affected by cancer. It’s a horrible thing to go through for anybody, in particular a child,” she said. “They have to fight so hard to survive.”
Thorogood, a West Coast auxiliary constable, began training in March with the hopes of making the Tour de Rock team and she was delighted to hear her name called during the team’s announcement ceremony in Shawnigan Lake on May 6.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s going to change my life,” she said. “We know that it will be part of us forever.”
She touted her mother Camilla and father Ray as unwavering sources of support and added her husband Kevin has been vital to her grueling but necessary three-day-a-week training regimen.
“Without him, I never would have been able to do any of this. He’s my chef and my masseuse and my home support person,” she said. “I can burn up to 3,000 calories on a ride so, when I’m done, I need to eat and I need to eat healthy to fuel my body and he’s been key in that and I have a lot of time away right now because this takes up a lot of my time and he supports that which is great.”
Thorogood works with the Tofino, Ucluelet and Ahousaht RCMP detachments and said her colleagues have been behind her 100 per cent.
“Having the support of the detachments where I work has been awesome,” she said. “Without those members encouraging me, supporting me, helping me, even picking up some of the work this summer because I’ll be away a lot, I couldn’t do this.”
The team recently received new bikes donated by Trek and have begun flossing their Tour de Rock uniforms inspiring cheers as they train.
“We did our first group ride last weekend and we received a lot of honks and a lot of waves and a lot of cheers, which was really encouraging,” she said.
“It’s tremendous. We’re a team working together but, when the community starts to add to it, we’re a bigger team and those people are a part of it even if it’s just by a honk or a wave.”
She said team members plan to ride roughly 3,000 kilometres to ensure their conditioning is primed when the official trek starts in September.
“It’s not a race, it’s about the ride and connecting with 27 communities on Vancouver Island and everybody in between,” she said.
Each rider must raise $5,000 before the trip and the West Coast’s support buoyed Thorogood up to be the first member to eclipse that mark. She has already raised $5,400.
The Ucluelet RCMP hosted a fundraising garage sale and barbecue back in March that generated over $4,000 and Black Rock Resort presented her with a $1,000 donation last week.
“This is what our small community does, we help each other out and I’ve just been blown away by the generosity and the support,” she said.
“And I don’t just mean generosity by money, it’s also the generosity of wanting to help and give a hand. Sometimes that’s all you can give, you don’t have the money but you can help out with an event.”
Locals are encouraged to fill the Tofino and Ucluelet RCMP detachments with donations to be sold during a massive fundraising yard sale planned for Tofino on June 25 and Thorogood has also launched a unique fundraising initiative that will see an elaborately decorated toilet circulating throughout local lawns this summer.
“I’m calling it Flush Out Cancer. It’s a highly decorated toilet by the artist Rebecca Lim and it will be delivered to various homes and places,” she said.
“For $10 you can have it removed, for $20 you can have it sent to one of your friends or colleagues and for $50 you can have all of the above and insurance that it wont come back to your house…We’re hoping to send it to Tofino and Ucluelet and see how much we can generate from that and have some fun with it at the same time with this gorgeously decorated toilet.”
The West Coast will see a variety of fundraising opportunities leading up to the ride and Thorogood encourages any locals wanting to stay tuned in to what’s going on to connect with her Facebook page dubbed Tour de Rock Gaylene.
“I’m trying to use social media as much as possible to encourage people to come out to these things and be a part of it and keep people up to date,” she said.
With the West Coast’s support behind her, Thorogood is confident she can take on the 1,000-kilometre Island-wide ride.
“I’m keeping up and I’m keeping pace and I have to be able to do it…If I think it’s tough, ‘suck it up,’ there is no quitting,” she said.
“I am nervous though because I think, ‘What if I can’t do this,’ but when I get into our group rides and the team is together we support each other all the way. Whether somebody’s got a mechanical issue like a flat tire or somebody’s pulled a muscle, we work together and that support makes me realize I’ll make it.”
Every year the Canadian Cancer Society attaches a health theme to the ride and this year’s focus is cutting down on sugary drinks.
“We’re trying to encourage healthy drinking, meaning water as opposed to sugary drinks,” Thorogood said. “Rethink your drink; opt for water instead of sugary drinks.”
She suggested the average Canadian consumes over 100 litres of sugary drinks each year leading to health complications including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.