500-mile ride brings Brotherhood through Gaffney from Greenville
Even though they had just pedaled all the way from Greenville, there was no groaning when an announcement was made that it was once again time to hit the road. After filling up their water bottles at the Gaffney Fire Department, they were on they way once again, many with smiles on their faces.
Known as the Carolina Brotherhood, the cyclists came from either North Carolina or South Carolina and they all shared something in common — they all served the public as either a firefighter or a police officer. Their mission was twofold; to remember police and firefighters who had fallen in the line of duty and to support the families those men and women left behind.
“They (the families) have felt far worse pain than we ever will,” offered Clayton Llewellyn, a firefighter from Charlotte who was participating in his first-ever Carolina Brotherhood ride. “It’s a humbling experience,” he added.
The Carolina Brotherhood was started in 2012. The bicycle route changes each year. This year’s ride started Monday in Columbia and will end Friday in Raleigh, N.C. The route is more than 500 miles long with about 100 miles of riding each day.
On Tuesday, Gaffney was the midway point for the day’s route, which was taking riders from Greenville to Rock Hill. Gaffney firefighters served as hosts for a rest stop. The riders planned to spend Tuesday evening at an Elk’s Lodge in Rock Hill. Organizers said the participants are routinely sheltered by fire and police departments or schools.
Pineville, N.C., Fire Chief Mike Gerin has been participating in the ride for four years but said this year’s ride held special meaning following the loss of a Pineville firefighter. On April 30, 20-year-old Richard Sheltra died battling a blaze at a Pineville strip mall.
“I understand the brotherhood and how much it means to everyone,” he said.
While he had never before met Gaffney Fire Chief Jamie Caggiano, Gerin said Caggiano didn’t hesitate in offering the Gaffney Fire Department’s assistance when he gave him a call earlier this year. “That’s what the brotherhood is all about,” he said.
Riders raise funds for the families of fallen police officers and firefighters through T-shirt sales, the collection of donations or corporate sponsorships.