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Courtenay volunteer firefighter taking part in Tour de Rock for 2023

As riders gear up for the Tour de Rock ride this year, a Courtenay volunteer firefighter is looking forward to giving back so others may not have to deal with cancer.

The Tour de Rock ride runs from the top of Vancouver Island, out west towards Tofino and Ucluelet, before finishing in Victoria each year over 14 days, covering 1,200 kilometres.

Emergency responders from all over the island take part in the ride for childhood cancer research, with Courtenay paramedic and volunteer firefighter Ajinkya Chodankar eager to participate in something that is so close to his heart.

“I’m very excited and hopefully we can make an impact and make a difference,” said Chodankar. “We all have our stories in our personal life, it’s unfortunate, but we all have people in our lives who have survived or succumbed to this horrible disease.”

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Chodankar says he was never able to meet his grandmother after she lost her battle with cancer, forcing is mother to grow up quickly.

“It’s always been a void in my heart,” he said.

Growing up in India, he started donating platelets to cancer research in Mumbai and seeing so many going through treatment.

“Just walking through the wards and seeing these kids, and they would come from all parts of India, they were just lined in the hallways and there is no space,” said Chodankar. “[It was] so insignificant, the impact I was making by just going there and giving a part of me. It always stuck with me.”

He adds he has had friends and others go through treatment, hearing them describe their experience in the aftermath with some struggling with depression and anxiety.

The ride is giving him the opportunity to give back, but the goal is to see a cure found at the end of the road.

“We all kind of hope and wish that our group is the last group to do this ride, so then hopefully by the end of this season there is a magic cure for cancer, breakthrough somewhere somehow, whoever it is wherever it is, and we don’t have to do this anymore,” said Chodankar.

“That would be the ultimate victory where we don’t have to worry about this disease.”

Chodankar has a fundraising website set up, with the goal of $15,000 but he is hoping to raise more with fundraisers in the near future.

“It means a lot, but also what we’re doing is impactful but also it’s such a small thing because the real heroes are the kids who battle this every day and sometimes even afterwards,” said Chodankar.

A full list of riders from the Island can be found on the Tour de Rock Facebook page.

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