As the Lee County Pipe and Drum Band entered the Bonita Springs Elks Lodge’s banquet hall, the entire room came to attention. Lungs filled to capacity, the pipes bleated out a familiar melody as guests at Friday’s Brotherhood Ride sendoff dinner took their seats.
Across the room, the line at the bar snaked around a few tables — but no one seemed to mind the wait.
Here to celebrate the beginning of a 22-day, 1,600-mile journey, a long wait at the bar was simply an opportunity to chat with old friends, wish a rider luck, and revel in the night’s cause.
The dinner, which had the lodge filled to capacity, was both a final chance to fundraise and an occasion to recognize, and thank, many of the tireless volunteers who worked to make the trek happen.
Behind the spaghetti buffet line, Elk Club volunteers Peter Moran and Keith Black were happy to donate their Friday night to the cause. The two, who have been serving spaghetti once a month at the lodge for the past nine years, have the routine practically down to a science.
“We’re the A team,” joked Peter Moran, ladling noodles and sauce onto a
Another showcase of the volunteer’s extraordinary efforts was the veritable menagerie of items up for bid in a silent auction. Despite the bad economy, volunteers had secured items like an autographed hat from Larry the Cable Guy and a Boston Red Sox baseball bat signed by Dustin Pedroia.
When Brotherhood Ride founder Jeff Morse stood up to address the assembled group, he couldn’t stress how wonderful the help of the volunteers behind the ride had been. “We have the best of the best,” Morse said, adding, “Every bit of the support we’ve had has been outstanding.”
The ride itself, which departs from the North Naples Fire Station 45 this Saturday at 8 a.m., will be comprised of 40 riders from 27 different fire, police and EMS agencies. They’ll peddle their way across the eastern seaboard, checking the 1,600 miles off one at a time, in memory of the 411 emergency workers who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
When rider Keith Curr, a bicycle police officer in Fort Myers, was asked, “why a bike ride?” his answer was simple
“On a bike the day starts easy, but by the end, it’s hard. You just want to quit, to give up. But there on the bike in front of you is a placard with the name of one of the people who we’re riding for, and it reminds you that these guys didn’t give up. It really keeps you going.”
The night ended with a touching tribute to one of the Brotherhood riders killed by a motorist while on a training ride.
James “Rob” Moorehead was a passionate bagpipe player, excited to join the ride and motivate the other riders at night by playing his bagpipes.
As Jeff Morse announced to the room that Moorehead’s family requested the riders carry his ashes with them on the ride up to Ground Zero, the pipe and drum band began to play “Amazing Grace,” leaving not a single dry eye in the house.