Even retired RCMP Sgt. Marc Lavergne – a man whose entire career on the force was dependent on controlling his emotions in potentially volatile situations – couldn’t entirely keep his composure on Saturday while he spoke of his young friend René Soto-Taylor at the annual Cops for Cancer Golf Tournament at Storey Creek.
And for good reason.
Soto-Taylor was Lavergne’s junior rider when he rode in the 2013 Tour de Rock, an annual Cops for Cancer fundraiser for paediatric cancer research and Camp Goodtimes, a summer camp for children and families dealing with the disease.
“He was in remission, and he was running around like any seven-year-old kid would do,” Lavergne said. “And I don’t know why, but I just thought, ‘this little guy is going to bounce back.’”
The next year, in 2014, Lavergne was part of the support group for the team, and Soto-Taylor again joined him, this time in the follow truck, packing equipment around and helping out where he could. His cancer had returned, and he was back undergoing treatment, but Lavergne still didn’t think the disease was going to take him.
Last year, however, upon seeing his young friend again, he could tell things weren’t going well.
“So when I saw his dad, I asked him, ‘what’s the prognosis here?’”
René’s father, Lavergne said, “looked me square in the eyes, and he told me, ‘Marc, it’s death.’”
And in July of 2015, “at the tender age of nine years old, René Soto-Taylor died,” Lavergne told the now-silent crowd gathered on the golf course Saturday, barely holding back the tears that were threatening to flow. “And that’s why we are here today. So that we can raise funds so that, eventually, no other family will have to go through that.”
Campbell River has been hosting the golf tournament fundraiser for 14 years now, “and you’ve raised upwards of $330,000 as a volunteer community initiative,” Nicole Minions of the Canadian Cancer Society told attendees Saturday.
While the Canadian Cancer Society does have an office in Campbell River, Minions said, it is completely run by volunteers – unlike many offices where there are paid staff – which makes our community’s fundraising efforts all the more remarkable.
“Our tour is the most successful one in BC,” Minions said. “The tour riders in Tour de Rock will raise over $1 million for paediatric cancer research and Camp Goodtimes this year, thanks to community events like this one.”
In fact, according to Lavergne, the other three tours held throughout B.C. combined don’t raise as much as the Tour de Rock.
And like the annual bike tour itself, the golf tournament last weekend saw participants from as far south as Victoria and as far north as Port Hardy make the trip to support the cause, which added approximately $30,000 to the running total the community has given through the annual event.
While the year’s ride doesn’t feature a representative from the Campbell River detachment, it does have a local connection. Trevor Mack of the Comox Valley RCMP is originally from Campbell River and graduated from Timberline Secondary.
But what’s most important, according to last year’s Campbell River rider Cst. John Belanger, is the community support.
“And there’s actually more riders from the region, overall, this year, as well,” Belanger says. “Last year I was the only one from north of Nanaimo, and this year there are three, so we’re still well represented up here.”
The Tour de Rock is scheduled to leave from Port Alice Sept. 25 and ends in Victoria Oct. 7, spanning over 500 km over the two week ride.
Find out more, including where and when you can find an upcoming fundraising event, online at tourderock.ca