By Kathy Rowe

On September 7, police escorts on motorcycles accompanied 59 firefighters as they cycled over the Highland Creek Overpass, along Lawson Road, north on Port Union Road and up to Kingston Road on their way to Ottawa.

Toronto Fire Captain Graeme Sweeney, who lives in Centennial, was on this three-day ride, which had begun in Hamilton that morning. “Due to the construction on Old Kingston Road this year, we went through Centennial,” he said.

Graeme, who is an avid cyclist, was proud to be part of the ride, which was part of a fundraiser for the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation (CFFF). The foundation helps to support the families of Canadian firefighters who have died in the line of duty. There are many fundraisers throughout the year across the country, but the three-day ride is a big contributor to the foundation.

“Last year we raised $88,000 for CFFF. The ride is the largest annual fundraising campaign for the foundation,” Graeme said. The goal for this year was $100,000.

Ride participants set up social media pages on the Canada Helps site, then shared their pages to friends and colleagues who in turn sponsored the riders. “My goal was to raise $1,500, and I came very close to raising that,” Graeme proudly noted.

“Along the route we make stops at the fire halls in towns and cities. They make presentations and provide us with donations. It’s really a great experience.” He added that there were riders from different parts of Ontario as well as out of province.

As the riders approached the different towns or cities they would change their positions within the pack. For instance, the riders from Oshawa would move to the front of the pack while riding through Oshawa.

They arrived in Ottawa on Friday, September 9. On Sunday, September 11, the cyclists gathered with families and dignitaries at the Firefighter Memorial there for a ceremony. “Part of the funds raised are used to memorialize the person who has died in the line of duty and to bring their family to Ottawa for the ceremony. That way the family can be presented with the Canadian flag, the helmet, and see their loved one’s name on the memorial wall,” Graeme explained.

He is already looking forward to the cycle training that will begin in the new year.

Next September, Graeme will once again be riding for this very worthy cause.

On a sad note, Toronto Police Constable Andrew Hong, who was fatally gunned down in Mississauga on September 12, drove one of the motorcycles escorting the firefighters through Toronto. It was his final duty assignment. The CCRA sends heartfelt condolences to his family.