The journey began for the Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley 2011 team bright and early last Thursday morning.
Day 1 started with a healthy dose of liquid sunshine. Our spirits weren't dampened, however, and we set out to visit our first school, Langley Fine Arts, for the opening ceremonies.
After all the months of training, it felt a little surreal to actually be setting off on tour, not just another training ride, riding into schools filled with screaming, cheering children.
Covering about 80 of our 800-plus kilometres, we visited six schools in Langley, Aldergrove and Abbotsford as well as stops at a Coast Capital branch and the RCMP detachment in Langley.
It's still early on but it's already evident that what all the "tour veterans" told us is true: This is more than a physical journey. It's an emotional one that has lifechanging possibilities. You can feel it. It's palpable.
Anyone who has had their life touched by cancer knows how life changing that diagnosis can be.
It's in the principal who got choked up talking about his niece's battle with cancer. It's the students at one school who stood up with individual letters that read out "U are heroes." Or the ones giving a rider quarters as donations. It's the current and former junior team members who come out to spend time with us. It's the long-time rider who was touched by the presence of a former junior team member who beat her cancer.
It's in the mother who made a touching speech to the team and support crew on Wednesday night - she thanked us for doing something to make more beautiful days for more children.
That is why we ride.
At the outset of tour, each rider received a piece of twine with beads spelling out their name and we've been adding new beads every day.
The beads hold a special significance, but the whole process and the fact we do it also holds a special meaning.
B.C. Children's Hospital runs a bead program for pediatric cancer patients.
Each child receives a necklace with beads spelling out their name. Then, as they go through treatment, they receive a bead for every procedure. The beads are a different colour and symbolize a different treatment or medical procedure - chemotherapy, radiation, lumbar punctures and needles, to name a few.
Some of the kids' necklaces are heartbreakingly long.
The team receives beads to symbolize different parts of our nine-day journey.
Ours are much easier to get. For every day we get a weather bead. The one for Monday's ride was blue to signify the rain.
Black beads are bestowed upon riders who crash. Pink ones are given to those who perform a random act of kindness for a fellow rider.
When we visit a school of a junior team member who lost their battle with cancer, we receive a special memorial bead like we did at Rosedale school. They are silver and bear their first initial.
It's yet another way we honour the people we are riding for.
The nine-day ride continues tomorrow when the Tour de Valley team makes several stops in Ladner and Tsawwassen. The journey wraps up Friday.
For more information about Cops for Cancer, or to make a donation, visit www.copsforcancerbc.ca.
Delta Optimist reporter Jessica Kerr is the media rider with the 2011 Canadian Cancer Society Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley team. You can also follow the journey on her blog at www.mybigride. wordpress.com.