The physical aspect of preparing to cycle across Vancouver Island to raise money for cancer research, Tom Gill can handle.
Gill, an Armstrong native and former logging supervisor with Tolko Industries, now an RCMP constable in Port Alberni, is preparing to take part in the Island’s version of the Interior’s Cops For Kids cycling tour which raises money for kids battling debilitating illnesses.
Called Tour de Rock, Gill and 22 other first-time event cyclists (RCMP and Vancouver Island municipal force members can only do Tour de Rock once) will start in Port Alice Sept. 24 and end in Victoria Oct. 7, sometimes covering about 140-kilometres in a day while cruising across the Island.
Gill has done training rides of 64-, 55-, 120- and 45-kms in August to prep for the ride. So, yes, the physical aspect is not an issue.
It’s the mental part Gill is working on. And it has nothing to do with the length of the ride or the terrain they’re covering.
It’s the junior riders.
The Cops For Cancer Tour de Rock event features an honourary junior team. These are children with cancer, or those who have had the disease.
They are the reminders why there is Cops For Cancer.
“The mental aspect of seeing all of those kids, that’s tough,” said Gill, who turns 44 Sept. 9. “You get to the meet the kids on the tour. They attend the events we go to if they’re able, and they’re part of functions that schools host for us on the tour.”
Every rider is paired with a junior rider. Gill’s is a three-year-old from Port Alberni named Brett, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, and thus is unable to participate in events that are close to Port Alberni.
Besides Brett, Gill will be thinking of his good friend Clint Ternier, who died of cancer right after he graduated from high school. Gill played softball with his father, and would see Ternier on the ice at the Hassen Arena before Gill stepped on to play his rec league game.
“I always made a point of talking to him,” said Gill, who believes the police should be doing more events like Cops For Cancer or Cops For Kids.
“I coached hockey for years, and everything I do is with the aspect of helping kids,” said Gill, who has two kids of his own, Carly, 20, and Eric, 14. “Unfortunately in today’s society, we don’t spend anywhere near enough time, as police officers, with kids on an informal basis. Everything shouldn’t have to be formal.”
With support from his wife, Cindy, who worked at the Vernon Court House for years, Gill signed up for Tour de Rock.
“I’m committed to this from the time I was announced on the team to the time the ride is completed,” he said. “I’ve wanted to do this since I got here. We don’t do near enough of this stuff, and you wonder why the RCMP look bad. This is a no-brainer.”
Gill still has tons of friends and family in the North Okanagan, and he’s hoping to garner some support for his effort.
A number of Armstrong and Spallumcheen residents have already made donations.
If you’d like to help Gill, go to www.copsforcancerbc.ca/tourderock/tomgill.