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Cowichan woman prepares for the ride of a lifetime

Beth Avis -
Beth Avis
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With the prevalence of cancer these days, most people know a loved one or a friend who’s had the disease.

Beth Avis, an auxiliary RCMP officer with the North Cowichan/Duncan detachment is one of those rare people who doesn’t.

“I don’t have anyone in my family or friends who’s had cancer,” the 30-year old said, which makes it all the more impressive that she’s committed to riding and fundraising for the 1,000-kilometre Tour de Rock, the annual two-week bicycle ride where a team of police officers treks south from Port Alice to Victoria.

“I don’t have a story and I hope I never do.”

It would be surprising if Avis doesn’t have one, if not a number of stories by the end of her life.  Talk to a few people, especially older ones and you soon realize Avis’ experience is clearly not the norm.

The Canadian Cancer Society website states in Canada in 2014, an estimated 191,300 new cases and 76,600 deaths from cancer will occur. That number does not include 76,100 new non-melanoma skin cancer cases.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and is responsible for 30% of all deaths.

As to the number of childhood cancers, statistics from the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website says on average, 880 children under the age of 15 are diagnosed with cancer each year and 150 die from the disease.

“I’m doing it because I like to give back...to help kids, this is the best way I can do it,” Avis said. “There are lots of kids in the valley with cancer.”

Since 1998, the Tour has raised close to $20 million for the Canadian Cancer Society, which uses the money to fund pediatric cancer research and programs that help children with cancer and their families.

As part of her commitment to joining the 2014 team — comprised of 20 police officers, three members of the media and a special guest — Avis has to raise a minimum of $5,000. To date, a total of 274 police officers and 36 others have ridden the Tour since 1998. A brand new team is picked every year.

So far, the Crofton resident has raised more than $3,000 and is hoping to raise “way over,” that amount by the Sept. 21 start of the ride.

She’s held bottle drives, barbecues, silent auctions and pub nights to help her reach her goal. For a full schedule of tour events and fundraisers before the event, visit tourderock.ca/upcoming-events/

Beyond fundraising there’s the training schedule too.

Avis drives north three days a week, to train with team members who live in the Nanaimo/Parksville area. She’s the only one from the valley on the team.

Tuesdays’ focus is on hills; Thursdays on speed and Sunday is all about endurance. On average they ride 250 kilometres a week.

Despite the fact that the auxiliary officer is fit — she’s participated in two triathlons within the past year — the schedule is demanding, both physically and time wise.

She said the training, which began in March, never gets easier, because their coaches and support team are always increasing the difficulty.

Good thing one of her favourite things is riding her bike.

“It brings me joy; even when I don’t feel like riding it, (once I get on the bike) I like it,” Avis said. “It’s a happy place.”

Given the demands of the commitment, something’s had to give. The auxiliary police officer, who joined in 2009, hasn’t been able to do as many shifts as she’d like.

“You couldn’t do this without the support of friends and family,” she said. “It’s a huge commitment, but really worthwhile.”

If you’d like to help Avis with her fundraising, Google “Beth Avis Tour de Rock.”

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