Les Betker had both an aunt and an uncle who died from cancer a few years ago, but the severity of the disease didn’t truly impact him until he witnessed kids who were suffering from it.
At the time, his second-born child, now four years old, was in BC Children’s Hospital being treated from nerve damage to her shoulder caused during her delivery.
“We saw a couple of kids in there battling cancer, and I just thought how horrible it would be to go through something like that,” Betker said.
In 2009, he decided to try to make a difference for kids like the ones he had seen in the hospital.
Betker, a police constable who lives in Abbotsford and works at the RCMP Pacific Region Training Centre in Chilliwack, joined the Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley.
The event brings together police officers and emergency personnel to travel a route, by bicycle, while raising funds for pediatric cancer research and programs.
This year, the 26-member team will traverse 900 km over nine days, making numerous stops at schools and community sites along the way. (See story below.)
This will be Betker’s fourth consecutive year as a member of the squad. The fundraising is an integral factor, but Betker – a father of four kids ranging in age from 18 months to five years – also enjoys connecting with the children the team visits along the way and serving as a role model.
“I do it because there is nothing like going into a school and seeing kids screaming and getting excited about what we’re doing,” he said.
Betker began preparing six months ago, with other team members, but he said no amount of training can mimic the full effects of riding 100 km a day for nine days straight.
“It takes quite a few days to recover after we’re done,” he said.
Betker hopes to continue his involvement with the Tour de Valley next year, but perhaps as an announcer in the schools, rather than as a rider.
So far, the Tour de Valley team has raised almost $160,000 for the cause. To support the event or for more information, visit copsforcancerbc.ca and follow the “Tour de Valley” links.
TOUR DE VALLEY VISITS ABBOTSFORD
The Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley makes a stop in Abbotsford next week as part of its nine-day 900 km journey to help fight childhood cancer.
The team of 26 police officers and emergency services personnel, accompanied by a full police escort, will make several stops at Abbotsford schools and community sites on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
The tour, which began Thursday, Sept. 27 as one of four across the province, raises funds for pediatric cancer research and support programs for kids and their families.
The Fraser Valley portion begins in Surrey and travels as far north to Boston Bar before heading back south, finishing Oct. 5 in South Surrey and White Rock.
The Abbotsford visit includes a community dinner on Monday, Oct. 1 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Fraternal Order of Eagles, 33868 Essendene Ave.
Tickets are $15 and include a baked salmon or curried chicken dinner, accompanied by dessert and entertainment. Tickets are available at the Eagles Club bar or by calling the club at 604-859-5405 or Desiree at 604-615-5638.
On Tuesday, Oct. 2, the team visits Roberta Bondar elementary, the Abbotsford Police Department, St. John Brebeuf secondary and the Fraser Valley Auto Mall.
On Wednesday, Oct. 3, the squad visits Auguston, Sandy Hill and Ross Road elementaries; Chief Dan George middle school; and Rick Hansen Secondary.