BY BILL PHILLIPS
Dean Rolufs simply wanted to quit smoking and get in better shape.
He picked a great way to do that. He joined the Wheelin’ Warriors of North.
“What got me interested in Wheelin’ Warriors was I was quitting smoking and started riding a bike again,” he says. “It was 10-15 years without being on a bike … All I was trying to do was pedal a bike again.”
His training regimen, once he not a new bike, was to head up University Hill. On that first day he made it halfway up before he had to stop for a rest. Gradually, the hill got easier.
A friend was part of the Wheelin’ Warriors of North and encouraged Dean to join the team. Until then he didn’t really know much about the team which rides in the Ride of Conquer Cancer each summer, raising funds for the BC Cancer Foundation. It’s a two-day, 250-kilometre cycling ride from Vancouver to Hope. This year Dean will be riding in his fourth Ride to Conquer Cancer and his wife Muriel will be participating in her second as part of the support crew.
For both of them, raising money to fight cancer made getting involved an easy decision.
“We have a strong family history, on both sides of the family, and friends,” says Dean. “Once we got to understand the motivation behind the team it was easy to be part of the team.”
Fundraising is a crucial part of being a Wheelin’ Warrior and each rider has to raise a minimum of $2,500 to take part in the Ride to Conquer Cancer. Dean is modest about it, but he has been one of the top fundraisers for the Wheelin’ Warriors over the past few years.
“I’ve been fortunate because a lot of my business connections have been very generous to me,” says the investment advisor. “My first year I raised around $5,000, second year was around $7,500, where I cracked 100 for the first time. Last year I cracked the top 50 in the province for fundraising. But it’s all been because of connections, generosity from corporations I work with.”
Last year he set a goal of raising $10,000 and held a couple of his own fundraisers. This year Muriel came up with the idea of creating a bumper sticker that says ‘Proud Supporter of Wheelin’ Warriors of the North.’
They have made 1,000 of them are they are available for a minimum donation $5.
“We put it on our luggage,” he says. “Every dollar raised goes directly to (the BC Cancer Foundation) because I absorbed the cost of producing them.”
And it is marketing.
“One of the reasons we wanted to do the bumper stickers, was not just to raise the funds, but also raise the awareness of the team,” says Muriel.
Both Dean and Muriel encourage people to check out the Wheelin’ Warriors and find out what they’re all about. And, even though it is a lengthy bike ride, you don’t have to be a top-notch cyclists to take part.
“There are some people who join the team who don’t have a lot of experience, or aren’t very physically fit,” says Muriel. “But they are still capable of doing it. The key is if they start training early, there is a lot support from to the team to get you to that point.”
There are group rides and group spin classes.
“You never feel like you’re alone,” says Muriel.
“You don’t have to be in great cycling shape to be part of the team,” adds Dean. “We will help you train.”
He says the hardest part of the ride is building up one’s endurance as the Ride to Conquer Cancer is over 100 kilometres each day. Training helps build that endurance, he says.
For Muriel, it will be her second year helping out as a support crew.
“I always had gone down and cheered (Dean) on at the finish line,” says Muriel. “Being there as a support person is a totally different experience.”
It is a long trek and things can happen … tires go flat, people crash their bikes, they need water etc. … that’s what the support staff is there for. They ride in vehicles and help the riders with whatever they need.
Last year was particularly challenging as it poured rain for both days of the ride and lot of the riders, including Dean, were suffering from hypothermia.
“All the roads were slick,” says Muriel. “We came across a lot of cyclists who had fallen, broken bikes.”
Next year will be a special ride for Dean. Not only will it be his fifth Ride to Conquer Cancer, which means he will receive a golden helmet, but his daughter, who will be 16 next year, will make her first Ride to Conquer Cancer.
“It’s an experience you’re going to remember for the rest of your life .. from just being part of the team, the training, to being part of the events, to the actual event down there,” says Dean. “You don’t realize how big of a scope this is until you’re with 2,500 riders and you see all the support for you. It’s an experience that becomes addictive. It’s heartwarming. Everyone there is for the same reason … to be cancer.”
“Once you get involved, you’re going to just love it,” adds Muriel. “You’re going to meet some great people, you’re going to have some really great times. The event is an energy like none other.”
Emotions can certainly come to fore during the ride as riders hear the stories of those who have been touched by cancer. However, it’s also a celebration, says Muriel.
“It’s really awe-inspiring to be part of,” she says. “You get to see the tragedy that everyone’s gone through and then you get to see the hope that they’re trying to build.”