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Daughter fuels mom's passion

If it weren't for years of research into childhood leukemia, Carol de Haas believes her daughter Michelle wouldn't be here today.

If it weren't for years of research into childhood leukemia, Carol de Haas believes her daughter Michelle wouldn't be here today.

That's why the local mom is so passionate about organizing the Richmond Community Dinner in support of the Cops for Cancer 2011 Tour de Coast, to be held this evening - Wednesday, Sept. 28.

"If Michelle had been diagnosed 20 years earlier, it would have meant death within a few months," said de Haas. "85 per cent of kids passed away from leukemia. Now it's 85 per cent survival."

Today, Michelle is 18, attending Langara College and still involved in the Cops for Cancer fundraising efforts. She has been cancer-free for more than a decade.

"Michelle is doing great and that's my motivation for getting involved in organizing the local fundraiser," said de Haas.

The News first interviewed the McMath secondary graduate back in 2005.

At the time, Michelle was 11 and was a "buddy" for local Cops for Cancer Tour de Coast RCMP cyclist, Anne Chapelle.

Richmond's Allen Pruden is team captain of the Cops for Cancer riders.

The 43-year-old became involved more than seven years ago as a medic on the tour.

"BC Ambulance has supported Cops for Cancer for years and when they asked me to take part on the support team, I said great," Pruden said.

In 2007, Pruden asked if paramedics could ride. Initially, the RCMP told him the ride was for cops only.

"But in 2008, the RCMP invited paramedics to join them on the ride," said Pruden. "Now, we have seven paramedics who take part in the cycle."

When the News reached Pruden on Monday, he and the riders had already clocked more than 500 kilometres.

The greatest challenge has been the weather. However, Pruden is quick to add that it's nothing compared to what the children fighting cancer endure.

"The kids show such great courage in spite of great pain and we keep that in mind when we cycle."

For the past five years, de Haas and a team of dedicated volunteers have been hosting fundraising events. The inaugural soiree in 2007 was a Hawaiian Luau held at Richmond's St. Joseph the Worker church hall.

"We have had different themes over the years including a New Orleansstyle Mardi Gras," said de Haas. "This year is our fifth fundraiser and it's become a real big community event with lots of public involvement.

"We reached out to the community at large and it's truly amazing how it's become an event for everyone."

Last year's community dinner raised more than $12,000.

"My dream is that the event will take a life of its own and get bigger and better every year," said de Haas.

Besides raising muchneeded funds to fight pediatric cancer, the tour, as well as the fundraising event, also supports Camp Goodtimes and the Canadian Cancer Society volunteer drivers who transport kids to/from their cancer treatments.

It also provide emergency financial aide for families dealing with cancer.

So far, donations to the Cops for Cancer 2011 Tour de Coast Greater Vancouver sit at more than $244,000. The cops began their cycling journey on Sept. 21 and end on the 29 in Vancouver's Yaletown.

The dinner happens tonight at the Riverside Banquet Hall.

Tickets are $50, which includes dinner, live music, prizes and an appearance by all 29 members of the tour.

For more information, visit www.copsforcancerbc. ca.

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