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Brotherhood Ride kicks off in Naples

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Photo: Video by fox4now.com

Brotherhood Ride kicks off in Naples

By Karl Fortier. CREATED Aug 1, 2014

NAPLES, Fla. - Three dozen firefighters and law enforcement officers teamed up for the Brotherhood Ride of 2014 Friday morning.

It's a 4-day bicycle journey across Southwest Florida to honor the memory of fallen first responders, and to raise funds to help the families they left behind.

"You knew that if you had to, you would risk everything to save someone you had never met," said Lt. Jeff Morse of the North Naples Fire Department.

He is joined by over 30 other firefighters and police officers to pedal over 350 miles to honor four of their fallen brothers.

"Whatever pain we're feeling, whatever sweat we're doing, it's nothing compared to what the families are going through to this day without their loved ones," Morse said.

The Brotherhood Ride is timed to mark the anniversary of the death of Sgt. Mike Wilson of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.

Wilson was fatally shot last year while responding to a domestic disturbance.

"Every ride is meaningful, and it's an honor to do every single ride," said Sgt. Bill Gorman of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.

"But this is going to be different."

Gorman worked with Wilson for over 20 years.

He's a veteran Brotherhood bike rider, and says he feels honored to represent his department on this special ride.

"They all can't be here to represent and think about Mike and everything Mike has meant to the community and the agency," Gorman said. "Because they'd all want to be here."

This year's ride is also personal for Broward County Deputy Sheriff Sean Strzalkowski.

His father David was a Miami-Dade police officer who was killed in the line of duty when Sean's mother was still pregnant with him.

"It feels good knowing there are a whole bunch of firefighters and cops that are out there trying to make sure the families never forget," he said.

"When I was growing up, that's something I wish we had."

Gorman says the Brotherhood Riders stop at fire stations along the bike route, and the families of fallen first responders are often there to meet them.

"They'll just want to tell us about their loved one," he said.

"We sit there, and we listen."

"Because we love it, it's one big brotherhood," he added.

The riders will stop in Clewiston, Port St. Lucie, Lake Placid and end up in Port Charlotte.

To help the families of fallen first responders, you can go to www.brotherhoodride.com to make a donation.

Karl Fortier

Karl Fortier

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Karl is a video-journalist based in the FOX 4 Naples bureau