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West Shore RCMP puts up strong contingent for Tour de Rock

Five officers are participating in this year’s charity ride in support of the Canadian Cancer Society
West Shore RCMP Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock riders Scott Hait, Justin Raycraft, Mason Harrison, Rusty Olsen and Kris Valentine show off their official ride jerseys following a presentation ceremony Sept. 8. (Justin Samanski-Langille/News Staff)

Police officers are no strangers to going above and beyond in the name of community service, but this month five West Shore RCMP officers are pulling double duty.

They are part of the 19 rider-strong Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team this year riding 1,200 km over 14 days to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society. After months of training, the group starts their cross-Vancouver Island ride on Sept. 23.

For many of them, the ride is personal.

“I’ve lost a number of family members to cancer, most recently my father earlier this year,” said Kris Valentine. “I’ve always wanted to participate in the ride, but this year finally pushed me to sign up. I’m very happy to be selected this year, and I’m always thinking of those family members when I’m on the bike.”

READ MORE: Tour de Rock riders receive official jerseys as 1,200 km charity ride nears

For Rusty Olsen, signing up for the tour came from his connection to Camp Goodtimes as a kid. He said spending time at the camp helped him realize the power of donations to the cancer society.

While the officers are used to having to push themselves through hardship while on the job, they said training for such a long ride, and attending so many fundraising events and visits with the ride’s honourary riders – children who are either battling or have battled cancer – takes a different kind of dedication that in some ways is easier to come by.

“The job is the job, and it has its ups and downs, but with this kind of a group and this kind of a cause, there is nothing but ups,” said Mason Harrison. “Whether it’s a hard ride or a hard day, there is always something positive about it. You can’t say anything that isn’t positive about this organization and this group of people.”

Seeing the community come out to support the riders at their events and on their training rides helps keep everyone moving forward, even if their legs and their lungs are screaming from the effort. Their fellow riders also work to keep everyone’s morale high, especially when they still have to work their regular jobs in between the three rides per week and several fundraising events throughout the training period.

“When you have a bad day, the team is right there to push you forward,” said Valentine.

“Every time I hit that sticking point on a hill where you’re not sure your legs can fire through it, I just think ‘my niece went through a bunch of rounds of chemo, and if an eight-year-old can do that, I can get up this hill,” added Scott Hait.

This year’s team of police, emergency services and media riders includes the hefty West Shore RCMP contingent of Hait, Harrison, Olsen, Valentine, and Justin Raycraft. It features two from the Saanich Police Department, Shauna Bainbridge and Nadia Sandhu, and one Esquimalt-based Canadian Military Police member Mary Larkin. The 19-member team also includes Troy Mann from Island District RCMP, Mike Ramsey of Nanaimo RCMP, Wes Richens of North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP, Ajinkya Chodankar of Courtenay Fire Department, Kirk Wolstenholme of Parksville Fire Department, Kayla Carlson of North Cowichan Fire Department and B.C. Emergency Health riders Michael Lowey and Katie Olsen. Media riders this year are Hannah Lelpine of Chek News and Johnny Novack of Virgin Radio.

READ MORE: Saanich Police Department officers set to cycle in annual Tour de Rock

Justin Samanski-Langille

About the Author: Justin Samanski-Langille

I moved coast-to-coast to discover and share the stories of the West Shore, joining Black Press in 2021 after four years as a reporter in New Brunswick.
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