Coralee Wilkinson was bubbling with excitement Friday morning, ready to get the formalities out of the way and hit the open road on the first day of the annual Cops for Cancer Tour de North ride.
An RCMP officer in Prince George for two years, Wilkinson was getting ready to embark on the 850-kilometre journey for the first time, but first had to stop at Canadian Tire to give a speech as part of the sendoff events. The 20 riders and their support staff also took part in presentations at Hart Highlands elementary school and the community gardens at Victoria and Seventh Avenue.
"I'm ready to roll," Wilkinson said before taking the stage. "This Prince George portion with the stop-and-go has been a struggle, to be honest."
Like almost everyone, Wilkinson has been touched by cancer. She said family members young and old have suffered from the disease, including her father-in-law who died of leukemia. However she's been especially touched by the stories of the young people who suffer from the disease.
She hopes the money raised from the ride ride will make it easier for children and families alike who are dealing with the difficult diagnosis. Organizers have set a goal of $265,000 to support childhood cancer research and Camp Goodtimes -- a retreat in on Loon Lake near Maple Ridge for young people who are battling cancer or who have beaten it. Already more than $175,000 has been collected.
"We want to help these people and help these young kids," Wilkinson said during an emotional address to supporters and sponsors. 'It's disgusting that kids have cancer."
Wilkinson said it's important to raise money for both cancer research and also to help people living with the illness.
"Some people talk about cancer saying, 'we're never going to find a cure,' " she said. "It's not only about finding a cure, it's about the people who are here and have cancer, helping them with places like Camp Goodtimes and providing family support."
Hannah Parker attended Camp Goodtimes for the first time in July. The seven-year-old in Prince George is doing well, according to her mother Candace McNamara.
"She spent a week swimming, camping and hiking, it was an absolutely amazing experience," McNarama said.
Wilkinson described the training leading up to the ride as "awesome" and said she's looking forward to the team bonding that will occur over the next seven days as the riders make their way from Prince George to Prince Rupert.
Two other local riders are on the tour, community riders Dennis Schwab and Sherry Pattie.
The team rode to Vanderhoof on Friday and were set for the longest leg of their trek on Saturday, riding up to Fort St. James for lunch and then to Fraser Lake. Although the 170-km trip is daunting, Wilkinson said her teammates told her of an even more ominous stretch down the road.
"I'd never heard of Hungry Hill until last night, but I hear it's a real struggle of a hill near Houston," she said. "We'll see what happens at that hill."
Along the way the team will hold community and school events and Wilkinson hopes the ride will inspire people with the disease.