PORT ALICE-Jesse Forman of the Sayward RCMP

Tour de Rock kicks off in Port Alice

Port Alice-Village opens Legion Hall, wallets as Cops for Cancer fundraiser arrives on North Island for 2013 event.

PORT ALICE—The riders of the 2013 Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock hadn’t even begun their 1,000-kilometre ride, but the action was already heating up as they arrived at the starting point Saturday, Sept. 21.

Local residents opened the doors of the Canadian Legion hall — and their wallets — to the tour, which raises funds to benefit childhood cancer treatment and research.

On the eve of their ride, which covers the length of Vancouver Island between Sept. 22 and Oct. 4, the 22 riders and support staff were hosted for the traditional seafood dinner and auction in Port Alice, the North Island launch pad for the tour.

Saturday night’s social was organized by Ashley Bigham, with contributions from many local residents and other North Island businesses.

After being treated to a full-course dinner featuring grilled salmon, crab legs and prawns, several of the 22 tour riders — including 17 police officers, four media riders and on special guest rider — stepped up to start an auction that drew 82 items before retiring for a night’s rest at the nearby Community Centre.

When a pencil sketch of the late martial arts legend Bruce Lee failed to draw an opening bid, masters of ceremony Joe Perkins, a reporter and anchor for CTV, and Jillian Van der Geest, of KOOL FM, upped the prize. For a $20 bid on the artwork, they said, special guest rider Kevin Nunn, a 50-year-old civilian employee with the Saanich RCMP detachment, would doff his shirt and replicate Lee’s fist-thrusting pose from the sketch.

It was no mean offer. Nunn is a fitness buff who has raised money for the Tour in the past through activities including a 60-kilometre run up and over the Malahat, and by pulling an Austin Mini-Cooper around the track at the University of Victoria. When hit team T-shirt was thrown into the offer for a $100 bid, hands were quickly raised around the room, and the sold-out audience applauded when he doffed the shirt and flexed.

After a bowl was passed around the room for donations, local resident Bill Rogers stepped to the front to undergo a head shave by Port Alice stylist Michelle McGraw. It was the third straight year Rogers has undergone a buzz cut to benefit the Tour de Rock.

“The first year, I started up a pledge sheet and raised $850,” said Rogers. “Last year, I just got asked the night of the event, and people pitched in $535. This time, I was asked a couple of months ahead of time, and they made $665. I’ve already decided I’m gonna do it again next year.”

Local residents “reserved” seats for each of the riders and gifted them with carved wooden nameplates bearing the design of a cyclist. Ride co-captain Misty Dmytar of the Nanaimo RCMP attachment was afforded a spot near the head of one of the long tables with a local cancer survivor, as the result of having her own son diagnosed with a neuroblastoma just nine days after his birth.

“I’d always wanted to do (the Tour), ever since I’ve been in the RCMP,” said Dmytar, a 10-year veteran of the force who spent nine years in the Comox Valley before being transferred to Nanaimo. “But after Griffyn was diagnosed, it became necessary for me. I wanted to give back to the B.C. Cancer Society and other families who have dealt with childhood cancer.”

Griffyn is now in remission, which has allowed Dmytar to join the Tour team for the 2013 ride.

“It feels good knowing I could be making some difference for another family, for another child. I know it’s going to be a physically gruelling ride, but it’s really more of an emotional journey for me.”

The ride itself begins Sunday, Sept. 22, following a pancake breakfast for riders and the community in Port Alice. The team and their support crew will travel to Port Hardy, arriving shortly after 11 a.m. for a brief stop at the annual Battle of Brittain commemoration at Carrot Park before riding on to the local Civic Centre for introductions, head shaves and a presentation.

At approximately 1 p.m., the team will depart for the 45-kilometre trip to Port McNeill, where they will be hosted in a community block party and barbecue at 3:30 p.m. at the Black Bear Resort on Campbell Way.

After spending Sunday night in Port McNeill, the riders will breakfast at the Legion Hall, then stop by Sunset Elementary School, where students have been encourage to participate in ‘Bring Your Bike to School’ day. Following a cheque presentation, those students with bikes will “escort” the Tour riders to Campbell Way for the start of their ride south to Woss and, ultimately, Sayward on what is the longest single-day ride in the tour.

For info, visit www.tourderock.ca.