Months of planning, training and fundraising will pay off as the 2016 Boomer’s Legacy BC Bike Ride leaves from 19 Wing Comox on Saturday, June 11. A team of over 100 riders and support personnel will participate in the two-day road cycling trip to Victoria that concludes with a ceremony to honour the service of all Canadian Armed Forces members who have died since 2001.
Riders of all ages and abilities – military and civilian – are participating in the fundraising event that gathers individual and group sponsorship for Boomer’s Legacy.
It will soon be a decade since Maureen and Hans lost their youngest child. Cpl Andrew Eykelenboom was killed on August 11, 2006 by a suicide bomber attack near the border of Pakistan while he was serving with 1 Field Ambulance in Afghanistan. He was 23 when he died, in the final days of his seven-month deployment.
In fact, his deployment had ended two days before his death. Andrew’s infantry unit concluded their rotation on August 9, and he began packing to return to Canada. On August 11 when the medical unit was short two medics, Andrew volunteered to go back out.
Andrew was the 26th Canadian killed in Afghanistan – and that number climbed to 158 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel to die in that theatre of operations between 2001 and 2014. He was the first Canadian medic to die since the Korean War.
It was that day in 2006 that the Eykelenboom family formed a bond with the CAF that would impact the lives of thousands around the world, and most certainly, in Canada.
“I knew the day after he was killed that I would start a foundation called Boomer’s Legacy,” Maureen explains, “so that soldiers on patrol could access funds for humanitarian projects in Afghanistan.”
Nicknamed “Boomer” by his mates, those who served with him knew that he left this world a better place. “One of the things Andrew wrote home about was a small thing he did that put a smile on a child’s face. He said it was the most important thing about this tour,” Maureen shares.
His mission in life was to help people.
Indeed, Boomer’s Legacy was formed as a 100% Canadian charitable organization, initially providing thousands of handmade caps for newborn babies in Afghanistan – a Boomer Cap – that greatly improved their chance of survival. Very quickly funds were being raised through gala events, private donations, and group bike rides to allow Canadian soldiers to provide food, medical supplies and other essentials to those affected by the conflict.
Boomer’s Legacy became a means to boost troop morale during their deployed service, and bolster the image of the Canadian Armed Forces within the areas they were serving.
Andrew’s humanitarian spirit lives on through Boomer’s Legacy, with over a million dollars raised in the last ten years to help men and women in uniform make a positive difference in the lives of others. The foundation is now a fund under the Support Our Troops Program, an entity of Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS).
When Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan concluded, CAF personnel returned to the safety and security of Canada, and it seemed that it was no longer necessary to raise funds to support those affected by conflict.
“When Canada pulled out of Afghanistan, I met with various members of the CAF to discuss how or where we could assist with funds. The most common response was, “well, don’t quit – just don’t quit”. So we kept going,” explains Maureen. “When we started I didn’t visualize an end, but I didn’t think it would keep going forever. However, we should be empowering our military members wherever they are severing to help others, over and above. You create better citizens by encouraging and assisting others to help. It just makes sense – it makes the world go ‘round much smoother.”
At home in Canada, when a member of the CAF is in a position to help local people, Boomer’s Legacy can assist.
“A process has recently been established to distribute funds on domestic projects that meet the original mandate and mission of Boomer’s Legacy,” according to Chief of the Defence Staff, General J.H. Vance. “This foundation will remain forever the symbol of the impact that Cpl Eykelenboom had on those with whom he served to help others.”
“I know that this is what my son would have wanted,” says Maureen. “Helping our soldiers help others is our mission, and it’s what we will always do, no matter where they are.”
Support our Troops: Helping our soldiers help others
Hundreds of Canadians have found their place within Boomer’s Legacy, supporting or participating in the annual Boomer’s Legacy BC bike ride, an incredible two-day fully-supported cycling experience that covers 240 kilometres of Vancouver Island from Boomer’s graveside in the Comox Valley to the provincial parliament in Victoria. Now in its eighth year, each cyclist carries the biography of a fallen soldier, and a ceremony to honour their service to Canada concludes the event. Boomer’s Legacy has raised over a million dollars in the last ten years to help men and women in uniform make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Boomer’s funds spent at home
In the last two years CAF personnel who are serving on Vancouver Island have received Boomer’s Legacy funds to assist with projects at home. Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs Society, a non-profit organization that matches rescue dogs to veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, received support to boost their program. The Sonshine Lunch Club, a non-profit group in the Comox Valley whose aim is to help persons in distress through the provision of nourishment and encouragement at a soup kitchen five days each week, was provided funds to support their annual operations. Rainbow Kitchen in Victoria received assistance through $20,000 allocated to HeroWork, a charity that conducts radical renovations for other charities by obtaining donations of labour, materials, and hosting a large community event.
Vimy Flight participates in Boomer’s Legacy BC Bike Ride
Comox Valley pilot Dale Erhart will join the Boomer’s Legacy BC Bike Ride with his replica First World War fighter aircraft on Saturday, June 11. Erhart is a member of Vimy Flight – a team of six pilots who will fly over Vimy Ridge in the 100 anniversary celebration on April 9, 2017. The group will return to Canada with their replica aircraft and embark on a cross-Canada aerial tour between May and November with stops in Ottawa for Canada Day, and ultimately concluding the tour on Vancouver Island.
- Support Our Troops: cfmws.com
- Boomer’s Legacy BC Bike Ride: boomerslegacybc.ca
- Vimy Flight: bcaviationcouncil.org
- Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs: vicompassiondogs.ca