While the grind may be exhausting for the cyclists tackling Boomer’s Bike Ride, those involved say it is more than worth it.
The event, starting today from Comox, is held every year in the memory of Cpl. Andrew “Boomer” Eykelenboom, a Canadian forces medic from Comox who was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 11, 2006.
The ride passes through the West Shore and ends in Victoria, Saturday.
Following Eykelenboom’s death, his mother established Boomer’s Legacy, a foundation that raises money to help soldiers provide humanitarian work in conflict zones.
Rides are now held in four locations: Vancouver Island, Ottawa, Halifax and Edmonton. Riders place a photo of a fallen soldier on their bikes to commemorate those who have lost their lives while serving.
Money from the fund goes to soldiers, facilitated by the military, for on the ground humanitarian work – providing clothes to children, helping with rebuilding or supplying shelters or orphanages are a few examples.
Dan Flynn, a warrant officer posted to CFB Esquimalt, is doing the ride for the third time.
After two tours of duty in Afghanistan and one in Kosovo, the Langford resident said he has seen first hand how money raised by Boomer’s Legacy has helped.
In Kosovo, Flynn helped a women and children’s shelter with $10,000 from Boomer’s Legacy that paid for improvements allowing the shelter to care for 10 more children than they could before.
Money was also used to help a mother with six children who lost her husband and extended family and was living in destitution.
“It’s the hardest thing for a soldier to come to terms with, because you’re there to help,” Flynn said. “We believe in the mission itself, but we also have a human element where we want to help people.”
Today’s ride begins in Comox with a trip to Eykelenboom’s gravesite. From there participants cycle to Nanaimo, where they’ll spend the night, before continuing to the grounds of the legislature tomorrow.
The 200-plus kilometre ride is a challenging one, especially the Malahat portion, Flynn said.
However, seeing Boomer’s mother, Maureen, riding along with the other cyclists makes the effort seem easy.
“You can’t whine or complain because there’s Maureen, lost her son and there she is riding and organizing,” Flynn said. “It’s inspiring.”
To pledge a rider visit boomerslegacy.ca.