Through rain, heat, traffic and sweat, a group of firefighters and police officers bicycle across state lines to honor those who gave all.
The Carolina Brotherhood is a cycling charity event established in 2012. Every year the organization, based in Charlotte, N.C., raises funds for families of fallen first responders. Volunteer cyclists bike across North and South Carolina and stop in every town who lost a public service man or woman the year before.
This year, Myrtle Beach was on the map.
Eleven service members – and one canine – across North and South Carolina died in the line of duty in 2014, including Lt. John Burns with Myrtle Beach Fire and Rescue.
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Burns, a 26-year veteran of the Myrtle Beach Fire Department, died of apparent natural causes on December 3, 2014. Firefighters found Burns unresponsive in the bunkroom of the fire station on 79th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach.
“Even though they didn’t know John Burns, [the Brotherhood is] here for him,” said Capt. Greg Richardson with Horry County Fire and Rescue. “There is a connection unlike any other.”
To learn more about the Brotherhood or to donate, visit http://carolinabrotherhood.com/.
The ride began in Burlington, N.C. on Monday and will conclude Saturday in Charleston. Cyclists made it to Station 6, on 38th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach, about 4:30 p.m. Friday. Twenty-five riders participated in this year’s event with 25 support staff. Many of the staffers were based in Charlotte, N.C., including cyclist Drew Lazarus.
Lazarus said he participates in the rides because, as a firefighter, he understands the sense of brotherhood between all service men and women.
“We’ve got to work with these guys all day, we have to train with them, we have to trust them with our lives,” Lazarus said. “We may not know all the fallen people, but they’re part of that family.”
It’s a good lesson in compassion. A good lesson in paying it forward.
Cindy Zimmerman, firefighter and cyclist
Law enforcement, firefighters and other public service staff have a “communal” bond that translates across state lines, Alvin Payne, Myrtle Beach fire chief, said. Every day, on every shift, Payne said firefighters have a common goal: make sure everybody makes it home.
When members of the family don’t make it home, it hurts everyone.
“So this is a fitting tribute to what we do, and to what John did,” Payne said.
Cindy Zimmerman, from Charlotte, said she rides to “pay it forward” in case she doesn’t make it home some day. Her two children, 13 and 17, have volunteered with the ride for the past two years.
“If anything ever happens to me, I know these guys will take care of [my kids],” she said.
The Brotherhood just wants to give what they can to the people who gave all.
“It’s hard, but you know the families need that support,” Zimmerman said.
Claire Byun: 626-0381, @Claire_TSN