Local RCMP officer doing fourth Tour de North

When she and a girlfriend made a big fuss over a little boy's bucket of ocean treasures in a waterfront cafe in Prince Rupert a couple of years ago, Jen Collins had no idea what an impact it made until she talked to the boy's mom and dad.

Collins, a Prince George RCMP officer who transferred from Prince Rupert in November, said after she spoke to the six-year-old at length about the contents of his bucket his parents came over to express their gratitude for showing such enthusiasm.

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The boy was on his sponsored wish trip because he had an aggressive form of leukemia and all he wanted to do was go to the ocean, collect shells, explore the beach and share that experience with his family.

"His parents couldn't afford the trip without the support of community people," Collins said.

Collins - almost afraid to ask - took the time to see how the little boy's parents were doing.

Being a parent herself she couldn't imagine the pain, anxiety and outright fear the family was going through and how extensively those feelings could carry through to not only parents but siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and everyone else who loved that little boy.

"It was in 2016," Collins remembered. And it's the reason she kept doing the 850-kilometre bike ride known as the Cops for Cancer Tour de North where 80 per cent of the money raised goes to pediatric cancer research and 20 per cent goes to send kids with cancer to Camp Goodtimes, where children can forget for a short time, they've got cancer and just be kids.

Collins father, Bob Killbery, has done each ride with his daughter and actually got her started on her cycling journey as he wanted to do the ride before he retired as an RCMP officer. They started in 2012 and took part in 2014 and 2016 and are now are preparing for the 2018 ride that starts Friday and goes until Sept. 20 from Prince George to Prince Rupert.

Collins and Killbery will be joined by 34 other riders this year and alumni of the ride are invited to join for a day of riding during the Tour de North.

"We really didn't know a whole lot about the ride," Collins said. "We'd always done stuff with the cancer society before. We'd done the Run for the Cure and Relay for Life and lots of other events like that. Like everybody else we've all known people who have died from cancer or who have had cancer and survived as well, right? But nobody in my family has lost a child to cancer or even had cancer. So we did the ride in 2012 and we had a really great time and it was a really great experience."

Because of the poor air quality, training for five hours at a time in the saddle of the bicycle Collins will be riding during the fundraiser was limited to those less smoky days. Other training included hours on her windtrainer inside her home.

Collins' family has made the fundraising efforts for pediatric cancer patients and research a family affair and not only does her father ride, her mother, Bev, organizes part of the welcome celebration as Tour de North riders come into Prince Rupert after their long journey. In the past Collins' daughter Olivia, 11, has donated nine and a half inches of her hair to kids who have cancer, as well as made Christmas cards she sold to raise $750.

Collins husband, Jay, also helps out with all the events.

"This is a real family thing for us," Collins said. "Everyone has some sort of part in it. It's just the right thing to do and you know that when you hear that children are getting better and surviving cancer at a better rate than ever before."

Each day the riders will travel between 75 and 175 km, with the 175 km day finding the riders in the saddle for about eight hours. Challenges include Hungry Hill outside of Houston and the hill that is on the approach to Prince Rupert.

Each rider is asked to fundraise $3,500 as the individual goal, and the team would like to beat their total from 2016 which was $353,000. There are four tours in B.C. and so far the provincial effort has raised more than $2.2 million.

To donate visit the Canadian Cancer Society, Cops for Cancer website.

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