Laura and Graeme Carlson, owners of the Grand Forks Pharmasave, are proud partakers in the Tour De Cure, a two-day bicycle ride that raises money for cancer research.
Graeme grew up in White Rock and went to UBC where he studied pharmacy.
Laura was born in Nanaimo and grew up in Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island. She too attended UBC, which is where she met Graeme. He used to sit in front of her in their pharmacy classes.
Soon, they fell in love and were married in 1981. They worked and lived in Abbotsford and Mission for about 10 years after they graduated. In September of 1990, they moved to Grand Forks.
Laura had five siblings growing up, two sisters and three brothers. She was the oldest daughter, coming after two brothers. Her reason for riding in Tour de Cure is because her oldest brother died of cancer close to 27 years ago, at the age of 42.
She rides to raise money for those battling the disease because, “I lost a brother, lost a good friend, and it means so much to me.”
“I’ve lost people here in town, customers, really good customers,” Laura added. “It’s something really hard to deal with. I figure riding in the Tour de Cure is my bit to help people out.
Laura and Graeme have been participants in the Tour de Cure since 2019, then called the Ride to Conquer Cancer. The ride was cancelled the following year due to COVID 19, but in 2021, the BC cancer foundation got involved and renamed the ride Tour de Cure, making it more local. The couple rode in 2019, 2021, 2022, and plan to ride in this year’s 200k Tour de Cure which takes place on Aug. 26 and 27, going from Cloverdale to Chilliwack on day one and Chilliwack to Hope on day two.
The most meaningful part of the ride for Laura is seeing how a group of strangers come together and become a small force to be reckoned with. People stand on the streets, cheering on the bikers, teammates encourage each other, and whole crowds turn up to show their support, many of them holding signs of encouragement. Her favorite one read, “Way to Go, Perfect Stranger!”
“We’re just a bunch of strangers doing something together,” Laura said. She loves the feeling of everybody united under the same goal of raising money to beat cancer.
The number of cyclists vary yearly, from 2,000 in the Ride to Conquer Cancer to 1,000 for the local Tour de Cure.
“It’s always neat to stand there first thing in the morning with your bike and your helmet on and see how many people there are,” Laura said with a smile.
Her process for the two day bike is simply to enjoy what she sees. Last year they biked through the cornfields with cornstalks taller than them until they crested a hill and could see undulating cornfields for miles. For Laura, biking is her quiet time, her opportunity to go out and see nature.
Even as a child, Laura loved to bike and spent a large part of her childhood pedaling a bike. When she went to university, she dropped the habit. She picked it back up again when Graeme started doing triathlons, and soon after they found a cycling club in town—just like that, the Carlsons were back into riding.
With Tour de Cure, Laura and Graeme can do what they love while helping an amazing cause.