ROCHESTER — Eight cyclists left Rochester to remember nine firefighters from South Carolina who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2007, and to remember every firefighter and first responder who has died on the job in the years since.
The cyclists set out early Friday morning, Aug. 24, from Rochester. By the time they finished on Monday, the cyclists had ridden 300 miles through Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island in honor of 14 firefighters who died in the line of duty last year and to financially help their families.
The cyclists, some from Rochester and some from others parts of the country and of varying ages, all have a common bond: They all are or were firefighters who don’t want their fallen comrades to be forgotten. The men are part of an organization called “The Brotherhood Ride,” founded by Jeff Morse, a former Rochester deputy fire chief who now lives in Florida.
“The whole reason it was started is because on June 18, 2007, we lost nine firefighters in Charleston, South Carolina. The main reason the Brotherhood Ride was started was we wanted to show the families that there are First Responders throughout the country that wanted to honor and remember their loved ones,” Morse said Friday morning before thegroup headed out.
Since its inaugural ride 11 years ago, the ride has raised over $400,000, Morse said.
“We have a tradition that our checks are hand delivered to the families. Nobody (from the Brotherhood Ride organization) gets paid for this. We’re using our own vacation time. Nobody collects a paycheck. They money goes straight to the families,” Morse said.
Cyclists in the Rochester ride included Ralph Longoria of North Port, Florida; Andy Weigel, Kevin Richards, Brandon Dion and Rob Dias of Rochester;Jeff Morse of North Collier, Florida; Craig Malchow of Steamboat Springs, Colorado; and Manny Arruda, a retired Boston firefighter, now living in Florida.
The men gathered early Friday morning at the Rochester Fire Station and, lead by a bagpiper, proceeded with their bikes up Hartley Road to the Rochester Firefighters Memorial for a ceremony that drew a crowd to hear from race organizers, the National Anthem sung by Miss Greater Worcester Olivia Marques, and a blessing from the Rev. Richard Crowley, former rector of St. Rose of Lima in Rochester.
Rochester Fire Capt, Andy Weigel organized this first. Rochester Brotherhood Ride. His reasons for getting involved are straightforward.
“Two years ago, I joined the Brotherhood Ride down in Florida,” Weigel said. “I rode with them and I was extremely touched by the way the organization touches the families’ lives. They make such a great impact for such a small group. Words can’t even describe it.”
“It’s just a great honor to ride for these guys who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Weigel said.
Morse said Weigel’s involvement means more First Responder families who lost their loved one in the line of duty can be helped.
“We thank Andy Weigel for starting this chapter (Rochester), and bringing it to southern Massachusetts and Southern New England,” Morse said.
“We do one memorial ride in Florida and that’s why it’s important what local chapters like Andy’s are doing because us out of Florida, it’s hard to do all 50 states,” Morse said. “We now have a Texas chapter, and now Andy’s is the second chapter. It’s our New England chapter for The Brotherhood Ride.”
“It’s a huge benefit and its not necessarily just a financial benefit,” Morse said. “The financial benefit is there obviously to help the families get by, but it’s more of an emotional benefit. It’s knowing that their loved ones aren’t forgotten.”
For more information on The Brotherhood Ride, go online to: www.brotherhoodride.com.
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