Berlin Fire Department competes in ‘Ben to Shore’ ride

Donations help families of police, others who died in line of duty

Berlin Fire Company members will be part of the July 24 Ben to Shore, a 65-mile bike ride that starts on the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia and ends in Atlantic City.

Families Behind the Badge is the charity organizing the race, where each year teams are formed from local fire companies, police departments and emergency services to honor firefighters, police officers and EMTs killed or disabled in the line of duty.

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There are currently 13 firefighters and four family members competing, according to Rushi Pandya, a Berlin fireman and Emergency Management Coordinator. He is the team organizer for the Berlin fire department. 

“We’ve always helped out with it, whether that’s directing traffic or handing out water, helping at the rest stops,” Pandya noted. “But last year, I decided to do it, and I asked some people and a bunch of people were interested. Before I knew it, we were up to 15 people, and in total we raised a little over $9,000 last year … This year we’re going for $15,000.”

The fire company has raised $4,000 with minimal promotion, and Pandya expects that number to climb as the race gets closer. He said there is time left for firefighters or those connected to the department to compete. 

“We obviously have a lot of time left; we really only started pushing the donations right after Saint Patrick’s Day,’’ Pandya said. “We know a lot of businesses in town who are also going to give a donation, that have approached us and pledged some money. “ 

Families Behind the Badge has already pledged money to the families of two Pennsylvania state troopers who were killed on I-95 in Philadelphia after being hit by a speeding vehicle on March 21. 

“This is so important to us,” Pandya explained. “Fortunately, we have never lost anyone, but we all know somebody who has, whether it’s a police officer or a firefighter in Philadelphia. We go to those funerals for them … We do this because we care. We aren’t paid a dime.”

Last year’s race was marred by rain, Pandya recalled.

“It poured the entire time,” he said. “That made it that much harder. But when you’re pedaling and thinking, ‘This is rough, this is hard,’ you remember all of the families that it’s benefiting.”

Donations toward the team’s $15,000 goal are being taken now. Go to the Families Behind the Badge donation page or visit the Berlin Fire Company Facebook page.

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