His first Cops for Kids cycling trip proved to be the ride of a lifetime for one Penticton RCMP member.
Cpl. Brian Burke, who heads the detachment’s police dog service unit, admitted afterwards the nearly 1,000-kilometre journey through the Southern Interior was at times almost overwhelming.
It wasn’t the physical grind, but the emotional side of seeing first hand the difference the money makes in the lives of the children helped.
“It was way beyond what I thought it was going to be,” said Burke, who along with Penticton’s Const. Scott McGillivray and Brenda Kotzian (Customs and Border Services) were part of the 21-member group. “When you see what these families face day to day, every day, it makes you wonder how they do it.
“Stopping in the different places and seeing the kids and talking to the families, it really has a very strong impact.”
Between the three local participants, they raised almost $10,000. Each rider needed at least $2,000 in pledges to participate. Overall, the ride raised $215,000.
According to Burke, the assistance ranges from something as simple as an iPad for an autistic child to a $12,000 medical bed for premature babies.
He remembers two children they met along the way who had received special and very expensive mobility devices thanks to the police funding.
“Those (walkers) were the only way the children could get around because they can’t walk,” said Burke. “One of the mothers said the highlight of her child’s life was to go to the grocery store and just burn around the aisles and help get food. She was so grateful, so it’s not just the child who benefits, it’s the family as well, especially the parents.”
The Cops For Kids program began in the RCMP’s South East District in 2001 and the ride is the major fundraising event, although other work continues throughout the year.
The grueling course began in Kelowna, went south through Penticton to Oliver and Osoyoos, then on to Cranbrook, Golden, Revelstoke, Three Valley Gap, Kamloops, Vernon and finished up in Kelowna last weekend.
According to team member and ride president Gail Harrison, the weather was good for the most part, but even when conditions were not a their best, it was a small price to pay for the rewards received.
“We were pedaling up the Paulson summit (1,500 metres) when the rain started to pour,” she recalled. “As the legs were burning, each rider started to think of all the kids (who) face uphill challenges every day who will benefit from our short-term pain.”
Another good memory Burke had about the trip was the giving spirit of the communities they visited.
That included things from the provision of meals and accommodations to the special events, in particular a fashion show in Cranbrook that raised $8,200 where riders got up on the runway and modeled some unique apparel.
He recalled one instance where someone dressed up as Marilyn Munroe was serenading him.
“You think you’re nervous doing police work sometimes, but this took it to a whole new level,” he said with a chuckle.
Now having recovered from the 10-day trip, Burke is already looking ahead to the 2013 ride.
Between now and then he plans to do more work with the group and find some local kids — “we call them our little ambassadors” — who can use a bit of help.
Donations can still be made at www.copsforkids.org.