Three Columbia firefighters will be ditching their huge red engines and ladder trucks for their bicycles starting Monday for a special event.
For six days, the trio will travel with more than a dozen others for more than 600 miles from North Carolina to Beaufort as part of the sixth annual Carolina Brotherhood Ride, a cycling event that involves firefighters, police and emergency medical personnel from both Carolinas who want to honor first responders who lost their lives, including police canines.
Capt. Pete Biviano and Engineer Blake Carte will be the cyclists representing the Columbia Fire Department, while Captain Chris Branham will be serving as part of the support team that ensures riders are safe along their journey. The event starts Monday, when they take off from Smithfield, N.C.
Biviano, who has been a participant of the event since its inception, said every year the team of cyclists grows a bit more. He said he had no idea how the event would affect his life until he got involved.
“Honestly, it made me a better person,” Biviano said. “The experience of the first year completely changed my outlook in life.”
Biviano said the event urged him to do more for the families of first responders who have died or been killed. It also encouraged him to build relationships with people who he, otherwise, would have never met. There was also another bonus.
“I thought it was just going to be about the families (of those fallen),” Biviano said. “But then the group itself became a family and offered each other healing. We’ve all been through things no one else has seen or done.”
Throughout their more than 600 miles of travel, the cyclists talk, joke and listen to music. They also take breaks during the ride to eat and refill their water bottles. They suffer through eight hours of cycling through the heat and pushing up hills. But their pain pales in comparison to what the families of those they are honoring have gone through, Biviano said.
Riders aim to raise at least $400 through T-shirts sales and through just donations from friends and family. They also sell other items throughout the ride. They use the cash to help out families of fallen first responders who are in need of financial support, whether it’s a power or a medical bill, or just gifts for Christmas or a child’s birthday. Aside from the financial support, riders also just want to be there for the families.
“The biggest thing we want to do is be there emotionally for those who have lost their loved one,” Biviano said.
If you go to cheer them on
What: 2017 Carolina Brotherhood Ride
Where: Dreher High School, 3319 Millwood Ave.
When: Stop 5 of tour on Friday