Sea of red

It was a sea of red outside Cherry Lane Shopping Centre as RCMP officers participating in this year’s Cops for Kids event took a quick break from their 10-day long ride across the province.

Troy Stewart clutched his two-and-a-half year old son, Trey, tightly to his chest as a convoy of police officers swept by on bicycles, Friday afternoon in Penticton.

It was an emotional moment for him as he watched 27 riders, all wearing red jerseys, make their pit stop at the Cherry Lane Shopping Centre.

“These programs, I don’t know what I’d do without them,” he said. “I’m just glad they were able to help.”

That program is the annual Cops for Kids Charitable Foundation, a 10-day bike ride across the province made up of a team of RCMP officers from the South East district.

For Stewart, the foundation has been a major part of his family’s life since March 2018, when Trey, who was born deaf, had an appointment in Vancouver.

“I lost my job,” he said tearfully. “The Children’s Hospital needed us to come down in May, and I was starting a course to get a new licence and better myself for my family and I just couldn’t afford to go.”

It was a three-day trip for the family during a time when funds were already tight, and while several organizations Stewart reached out to offered to help, they too were struggling.

“They could only help so much,” he said.

That’s when he was told about Cops for Kids, who stepped up to help the family with gas, accommodation and fuel for the three-day trip.

“There’s at least two more (trips) before winter. The next one will be to check his hearing aids … and then the one after will be for surgery for a cochlear implant.”

Const. Liz Vant Erve of the Penticton RCMP was thrilled to be a part of this year’s ride.

“It’s so exciting,” she said. “It’s going to be nice to see all of the communities and it’s going to be a great ride.”

It’s her first year participating in the event, and she said she and her husband, who is along for the ride as a guest, have been training since May.

“It’s a great organization for what it does for kids in need, it’s absolutely amazing,” she said.

Many of the stories she’s heard, she said, have been an emotional experience.

“Meeting (them) was heart-wrenching,” she said. “This is something I always wanted to do.”