Penticton officer leading this year’s Cops for Kids

Mounties and friends set out Friday for 1,000-km loop around Southern Interior

On the road again.

This morning 19 riders began a gruelling 1,000-kilometre route through some of B.C.’s toughest terrain in the annual Cops for Kids Ride.

The 10-day trek, captained by Penticton RCMP’s Cpl. Brian Burke, is to arrive in the Peach City for a 3 p.m. reception today at Boston Pizza.

The ride is the largest fundraising component of the year-round charity, with the money going to help children with special needs through grants and equipment not otherwise affordable. Since the charity began in 2001, it has raised $300,000.

An avid cyclist, Burke is a veteran police service dog handler who joined Cops for Kids in 2012.

While new on the ride, it didn’t take long before what began as an interest turned into a passion.

“After meeting children and families last year that were helped, it became all too clear,” said Burke.

“Cops for Kids was a cause I could get behind and in turn share the message of this phenomenal charity.

“We are driven by our commitment to the little people that we serve in the Southern Interior region of British Columbia and are devoted to making a difference in their lives.”

So far, this year’s ride has raised about $74,000. In order to participate each cyclist must have a minimum donation of $2,000.

Beginning in Kelowna, the route goes through Penticton to Osoyoos and Oliver then on to Cranbrook, Golden, Revelstoke, Three Valley Gap, Kamloops, Vernon, then winding back to the starting point.

The stops in many of the communities often include hearing testimonials from recipient families.

“I saw some families last year, single moms or families who can barely scrape together two cents to pay for a meal and it really makes you take stock of just how tough your own life is day to day,” said Burke.

He recalled one man who spoke briefly last year, adding by the time the speaker finished there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

“The gentleman spoke to us from the heart,” said the ride captain.

“It was quite powerful and it just gives focus as to why you are there. It is just nice to actually see that we are helping.”

There are two other local participants this year, RCMP Const. Brad Caruso and Brenda Kotzian, a retired Canadian Border Services agent.

Burke admitted spending so much time in close proximity with others, often in very harsh conditions, can be a challenge.

“I’d be naive to say things aren’t not going to come up but we just remind people we’re here to help and if you’re cold wet or hungry you’re going to be warm, dry and fed shortly,” he said.

“I know from my experience that this year’s team will gel and grow together, but more importantly will act as a conduit of awareness for those children and families that struggle each day with medical and financial difficulties.

“There’s a lot of solitude out there when you’re riding and it gives you a lot of time to think about why you are doing this.”

Burke acknowledged the next 10 days will be mentally and physically taxing, but added:

“I am truly grateful that I have the opportunity to participate and can’t wait to see what’s around that next corner, over the next hill, or to see that next smile on a child’s face because of the efforts of our ride team and supporters.”

Donations can be made online at www.copsforkids.org.