Riders honour memory of slain Comox medic

A total of 86 cyclists rode 240 kilometres in just two days, all in an effort to preserve the humanitarian spirit of one fallen soldier.

DOUG YEO

They came, they cycled they conquered.

A total of 86 cyclists rode 240 kilometres in just two days, all in the effort of preserving the humanitarian spirit of one young man, a fallen soldier.

The Boomer’s Legacy BC Bike Ride is a staple fundraising event held annually in mid-June for the purpose of raising awareness of the good works of our men and women in uniform serving in far-off locations around the world.

Now in its fifth year, the ride raises monies through pledges and donations that fund many projects that often go unnoticed or are unheard of to the most Canadians back home in Canada.

And just why do they draw so little attention? Well, that’s just the point, the impetus to the creation of a foundation whose mission is Helping Soldiers Help Others.

It’s the story of Andrew Eykelenboom, a young Canadian Forces medic, call-sign Boomer, who witnessed day after day the hardship of the people in the communities where he served and wrote home to tell his family about it.

It can be a helpless feeling knowing there’s so little that can be done from here in this great nation built on freedom and democracy.

Not so for Maureen Eykelenboom and the friends and family who rallied behind her upon receiving the news of her son’s death at the hands of a suicide bomber just days before the end of his tour of duty.

The legacy of Boomer’s goodwill, the drive to help the people in the villages that surrounded him in Afghanistan, lived on long after the young corporal perished in 2006.

It lives in the lovingly knitted wool caps, over 300,000 made around the world today. It lives on in the random donations received weekly by unassuming citizens across Canada.

And it most certainly is alive and well in every stroke of the pedal, every curve of the road and every inch of climbing pavement that stretches between Canadian Forces Base Comox to the legislative grounds in downtown Victoria.

Not a single cyclist who committed to the event this year, just as in previous years, finished the trek without knowing exactly what they rode for and for whom. Indeed, every cyclist, both military and civilian, who donned a black and red jersey adorned with the words Boomer’s Legacy across the front and back also rode in the memory of fallen soldiers.

All 160 of them were accounted for on 86 bicycles, including Sgt. Jannick Gilbert, a Search and Rescue Technician who recently perished while on a rescue mission in Canada’s arctic region. Just as in oversees missions, the courageous efforts of our comrades are made equally here at home.

“It is so much more than raising money and building awareness,” said Maureen, Boomer’s Legacy Founder, at an emotional start of the ride. “It’s about honouring all the Andrews of our military, those men and women who gave their lives in the fight for freedom. You [cyclists] get it!”

“I was initially attracted to the concept of riding from Comox to Victoria for the physical challenge it represented,” said LCol Wayne Joy, a CF member based at 19 Wing Comox and first-time bike ride participant.

“Having never ridden more than 50 km in a single day, we were well past the 170-km mark as we headed up the Malahat. I had told myself that I would not stop, determined to get to the top, not for me, but in the memory of [two of the fallen soldiers]. It wasn’t easy but I made it.”

This year’s event also saw the return of Doug Yeo, 88, a third-time participant and long-standing supporter of the Boomer’s Legacy cause. Also a Royal Canadian Air Force veteran, Doug served as a flight navigator aboard the Mosquito during the Second World War and witnessed many sacrifice in the fight for freedom.

“I was able to come home to my parents,” commented Yeo, reflecting on his mission during the war. “Boomer was able to so I feel I owe him something.”

The 2012 Boomer’s BC Ride is perhaps the most successful to date, raising approximately $50,000 in pledges and donations. The bar is now set for the first National Capital Region Ride on Aug. 25, and the second annual Nova Scotia Ride on Sept. 1.

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