Wayne Mancarella knew it would be a long day on his motorcycle, beginning with a trip from his home in Largo to the Quail Hollow Golf & Country Club in Wesley Chapel.
But there was nowhere else Mancarella wanted to be. He joined hundreds of other bikers for the 9/11 Gratitude Ride, raising money for the Pasco County Fire Rescue Benevolent Fund to make sure families of fallen first responders were well taken care of.
“Sometimes we take both the cops and our firefighters for granted,” Mancarella said. “I’m glad there are people out there like them willing to do all the things we need them to do. There’s no one else like them.”
The 9/11 Gratitude Ride is now in its fifth year, settling in at its home at Quail Hollow through the work of Land O’ Lakes Realtor Dan Turner. The Sept. 6 event not only pooled together money to help who Turner called local heroes, but to honor the men and women who died trying to rescue people during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Make no mistake about it, this is a 9/11 event,” Turner told the crowd on Saturday. “We call it the Gratitude Ride because we can’t go to New York, we can’t go to Pennsylvania, we can’t go to Washington, to express our gratitude to the emergency workers there. So what better way to express our gratitude to the local men and women who protect us every single day.”
The parade of motorcycles traveled more than 50 miles from Quail Hollow that morning to visit Pasco County Fire Rescue stations in Dade City and Zephyrhills. There, bikers met with firefighters and paramedics, learning more about what they do, and the dangers they face every day.
“As the events of Sept. 11, 2001, unfolded, these men and women ran into those two buildings, they ran into the Pentagon, they ran out to the grass site in Pennsylvania,” Turner said. “It was all to do one thing — to save people like you and me. That is what they do. As we are running from danger, what are they doing? They are running into it.”
After the visit to the fire stations, crowds returned to Quail Hollow for an afternoon event that included food, vendors, and live music from The Greg Billings Band.
Final numbers from the recent event were not available, but past Gratitude Rides have raised more than $6,000 for the benevolent fund.
Published September 10, 2014
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