Local paramedic Sharon Unger will be undertaking a nearly 900 kilometre bike ride from Prince George to Prince Rupert as part of the Cops for Cancer fundraising tour. Cops for Cancer is an annual bike pilgrimage that raises money for children with cancer in British Columbia. Money goes to facilities like Maple Ridge’s Camp Goodtimes, a camp for children with cancer as well as helping to financially support children and families dealing with cancer.
This will be Unger’s third year participating in the Cops for Cancer marathon and her third year riding the Tour de North route which takes her north towards the Prince Rupert coast.
Unger admits prior to her first year with Cops for Cancer she had never rode more than 35 kilometres on a bike ride.
“I was terrified, being clipped in and going so fast,” Unger said.
But Unger chose to get involved as a way to pay tribute to her father, who died from cancer 10 years ago.
“I have seen cancer through the eyes of a daughter having lost my dad to cancer 10 years ago.,” said Unger on her official Cops for Cancer profile page. Elaborating, “I have also seen cancer through the yes of a paramedic. Cancer is a devastating disease… particularly when it is a child suffering. Help me raise money so we can eradicate this disease.”
Unger also said she competes for the future of children, “seven days of bike riding pain is nothing compared to the pain these kids have to endure, so I do it for them as well.”
Riding a 900 kilometre route is no easy task as Unger can attest, so she’s been training in preparation for the September ride. “I just get on the bike and ride,” she said. “I try to train by doing 100 to 150 kilometre rides before the actual event ride.”
The Tour de North is part of the broader Cops for Cancer event which includes cyclists riding the Tour de Rock route, Tour de Coast route and Tour de Valley route in support of the same cause.
While on their gruelling journey, Unger and other cyclists stop at schools along the way and talk about cancer, health and raise money for the event. “This year is a bit tricky with the teachers strike,” said Unger. “Hopefully the schools will be open during our trip so we can stop in.”
The school presentation aspect of the event is a crucial part of the trip as it relates the the inception of the Cops for Cancer ride as a whole.
Cops for Cancer was originally started by a RCMP officer and his detachment who shaved their heads in solidarity with a student suffering from cancer who was self-conscious due to losing her hair from chemotherapy. The actions of this officer snowballed into what the event is today.
“When we tour the schools, especially schools where a student is struggling with cancer, we turn those kids into celebrities, we help make them comfortable with being at school even if they have lost their hair or are throwing up, we try to make them feel normal and comfortable again,” Unger said.
Unger, as well as her fellow Tour de North compatriots will leave their Prince George starting point on September14 from the CN Centre parking lot.