But for BCEHS dispatcher and paramedic Ryan Hendren, the reason is personal; he battled leukemia when he was 18 and this ride is a way for him to help kids and their families going through what he successfully overcame.
“These days cancer touches everyone,” he said. “I made it through my cancer battle and this ride is a way for me to give back.”
Hendren will be joined by 23 other riders including BCAS paramedic Glen Polson and his younger brother, Saanich Police officer Mark Hendren.
“When a child gets cancer, their siblings suffer as well because the whole family’s lives revolve around the patient,” Hendren said. “My brother and I never really talked about it much back then, but to have the opportunity to do this ride together now is pretty special.”
One of the initiatives the Tour de Rock raises funds for is Camp Goodtimes, a recreational summer camp for pediatric cancer patients and their siblings.
Hendren said he wished he had that kind of opportunity when he was battling cancer.
“It was a weird age (18) and my struggles only increased once I was finished my treatment. I was bald, had no eyelashes and was basically an emaciated mess. All I wanted to do was be normal and for the people around me to understand what I was going through,” he said. “A place like Camp Goodtimes would have surrounded me with people who could do just that. The camp counsellors are former cancer patients and it’s a place where all the kids share this commonality and where cancer is nothing that needs to be hidden or scared of.”
2017 marks the twentieth anniversary of the Tour de Rock, the oldest and longest of the Cops for Cancer charity rides. Very few paramedics are offered the opportunity to ride in the Tour de Rock. Last year Hendren and Polson volunteered as part of the support crew. This year, far beyond their expectations, they were both invited to be riders.
“It’s very humbling to be part of the riding team this year,” Hendren said. “This is so much more than a bike ride; it’s a pretty heavy journey.”
All riders are paired with junior team members who are battling cancer. The Hendren brothers were paired with siblings whose cancer story mirrors their own.
“Your heart breaks for these kids and I can’t help but relate to them,” Hendren said. “You can do all the training in the world but there’s not much you can do to prepare to face a three-year-old battling cancer.”
But Hendren added there have been a lot of positive changes and greater survival rates in pediatric cancers, thanks in part to funding raised through organizations like Tour de Rock. Since its inception, the Tour De Rock has raised over $23 million for pediatric cancer research and support programs.
“This is a cause bigger than the people in it; bigger than any of our own personal connections to cancer. It’s about helping kids and their families start to heal from something they should never have had to endure.”