35 cyclists honor fallen firefighters with trip

Published on Sunday, 25 May 2014 23:16 - Written by Faith Harper, fharper@tylerpaper.com

A band of bicyclists on a mission stopped in Tyler Sunday during their 750-mile journey to honor fallen emergency responders.

The Brotherhood Ride is a nonprofit group that rides bicycles to honor those who died in the line of duty. They typically ride near the one-year anniversary of a fatal event and raise money all year to help their fallen brethren’s families. The group formed in 2008 in Florida after nine firefighters were killed.

Thirty-five current and former firefighters, police officers and EMTs from across the country will pedal more than 750 miles in nine days as part of the ride.

They made their fourth stop Sunday afternoon in Tyler to grab a bite to eat at the Flint-Gresham Volunteer Fire Department and rest their limbs at the Tyler Elks Lodge No. 215, before traveling to Dallas.

“Our whole goal is to show the families that we haven’t forgotten the sacrifice their loved one made that day and that they still make on this day,” said Jeff Morse, founder and president of the nonprofit.

The brotherhood is touring Texas to honor the 19 Texas firefighters killed in 2013 in Bryan, West, Dallas and Houston.

“It was one of the worst years for line of duty deaths in the history of Texas,” said Tim Dunn, a senior captain of the Houston fire department who has ridden with the group annually since 2011.

The riders will make a stop in each of the cities that lost emergency responders in 2013: stopping in Dallas today, West on Tuesday, Bryan on Thursday and ending their journey in Houston on Friday.

Each rider wears a shirt with the names of the honored firefighters on their backs for inspiration when their legs get heavy and tired.

“It’s big for us,” Morse said. “You can see their names on our backs, and when we are tired and when we are sore, we look in front of us and see those names, and it makes our day a little easier.”

“A lot of people say, ‘We will never forget,’ but as time goes by, it’s easy for those people who say that to forget, but the families and coworkers never forget,” Dunn said. “This is something we can so to support them and support what they are going through, and that’s the most rewarding thing about it.”

Morse said the main goal is to provide emotional support, but there is a financial aspect, too. Each rider must raise a certain amount to participate, and the group does various fundraisers all year, including selling T-shirts. All of the money raised is given directly back to the families who are honored that year. Since 2008, more than $191,000 has been given back to the fallen emergency responders’ families.

“We know that at any time it could be any one of our families that we are riding for,” Morse said.

Brotherhood Ride is based in Florida, but a Texas chapter was recently created.

To donate to the cause or to get more information on the group, visit www.brotherhoodride.com .