Firefighters and first responders are known for making house calls when they’re needed the most. But on Sept. 7, they’ll get some visitors of their own: Hundreds of motorcycle riders, just wanting to say thanks.
Pasco County Choppers are hitting the road once again for its annual Gratitude Ride, a 50-mile trek from station to station honoring the heroes that don’t get thanked enough. At the same time, these more than 300 bikers raise money for the Pasco County Fire Benevolent Fund, which helps families of firefighters when they need a helping hand of their own.
It’s no coincidence this ride happens around the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed 412 emergency workers in New York City alone. Local Realtor Dan Turner is originally from New York, and visited the World Trade Center towers many times before the tragedy. While that fateful day is now 12 years in the past, Taylor wants to make sure it’s always remembered.
“Some people have forgotten about 9/11; the whole thing has worn off a bit,” said Turner, who is now in his fourth year organizing the event. “We try to bring as much attention to it as possible.”
For the second year, the Gratitude Ride goes beyond just a gathering for hog enthusiasts. It’s expanding into a public afterparty at the Quail Hollow Country Club beginning at 1 p.m. There, visitors can enjoy the many motorcycles on display, eat food, enjoy drinks, and hear music from the Greg Billings Band.
Funds raised through a raffle and 50-50 will go to the Benevolent Fund.
“We’ll be passing some boots around to try and raise a little bit more money,” Turner said, referencing the boot campaigns conducted by firefighters to raise money for the New York City victims on street corners immediately following the terrorist attacks.
While the party begins at 1 p.m., the chopper riders will be up much earlier, gathering at the government center at 4111 US 41 in Land O’ Lakes around 9:30 a.m. There, Turner will host a dedication ceremony, and just after 10 a.m., the bikes will start heading out to their first destination.
This year’s stops begin with Station 15 at 11538 Trinity Blvd., in New Port Richey. Station 14 follows at 7800 River Ridge Blvd., also in New Port Richey, before wrapping up the trip at Station 20 at 15900 Little Ranch Road in Brooksville.
“We remember the events and honor the lives that were lost,” Turner said of the terrorist attacks. “Closer to home, I wanted to make sure that we recognized our own emergency services, not just after the fact, but all the time. They are the ones that always say it’s just a job, but we all know that they run into danger as we are running away from it.”
While there might be stigmas assigned to large groups of motorcyclists thanks to portrayals of them in the movies, the chopper community is actually quite the opposite.
“It is a community that gives back,” Turner said. “There’s always some kind of benefit we’re participating in, a lot of toy runs and food drives and things like that. It’s a broad spectrum of people that ride, and they always have an eye for doing something special.”
The rain date for this year’s event is Sept. 8. For more information, visit www.PascoCountyChoppers.com.