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Firefighters bike 16K miles to raise money for injured veterans

AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. - Climbing the stairs, reaching a high shelf… riding a bike. 

Tasks many of us would do without a second thought aren’t always as easy for heroes severely wounded in war. 

Which is why a group of firefighters is making their way through Airway Heights this weekend to raise money for a good cause.  

It’s a 21-day trip, done completely on bicycle, during which members of the Northwest Fire Velo will travel across five states- approximately 1,600 miles- raising money for veterans and first responders. 

"For some of us, it's just getting through the day, but we know the goal, which is raising money and raising awareness is worth every mile that we ride," said Rich Smith, a firefighter with the city of Bellevue in Washington.

Those firefighters, including Smith, will stop at fire stations along the way, like the one in Airway Heights, collecting money for the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program. The program was created by the famed actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise, known for his role as Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump. 

That money will then be used to build adapted smart homes for injured veterans in need. 

“We are constructing these one-of-a-kind homes across the country, each for a wounded hero, their caregivers, and families,” said Chris Kuban with the Gary Sinise Foundation. “With a place to truly call home, they will now be able to move forward with their lives.” 

"Everyday we live in the United States, we are blessed with our normal routine because of the security of our active military and our veterans provided for us, and we forget that. It's easy to forget," Smith said.

Smith said there's about 12 of us that are going the full 1,600 miles. Along the way, there will be other firefighters that will join the ride.

"I think on average we have about 15 riders per day," he said.

Spokane City Firefighter Micah Edwards will go along with the ride for more than 200 miles starting Sunday.

"It's an honor to be part of the cause and it's great thing to be doing something that you love, cycling for a good cause and it's nice to know you can give something back to people that have sacrificed so much for our country," Edwards said.

This isn’t the first trip some of these firefighters have made. 

During the inaugural event in 2017, firefighters raised $36,000 in a cycling trip from Seattle to Los Angeles. The money raised during that trip not only went to the R.I.S.E. program, but also helped fund new turn-out gear for a small volunteer fire department. 

The group plans to make a cross-country trip in 2021, during which they’ll travel from California to New York to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11. 

As for this trip? 

It began in Bellevue, Washington, and will end September 21, at the IAFF Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Colorado Springs.

For more information on the Gary Sinise Foundation, visit the website here. You can also learn about the R.I.S.E. program here



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