Muddy Angels Will Shift Gears When They Arrive In Newtown Next Week

Photo: contributed

The 2013 East Coast ride of the Muddy Angels, a long distance cycling event that honors EMTs and paramedics who have become sick, injured or were killed while performing their duties, will arrive in Newtown for a special ceremony on May 22. The event will honor those who were involved in the events of 12/14. Riders are shown here during their approach to Times Square in a previous ride.

The National EMS Memorial Bike Ride (NEMSMBR), which rode through Newtown most recently three years ago, will return to town next week when cyclists arrive for a special event on the fifth day of a seven-day run.

The long-distance cycling events honor EMTs and paramedics who have become sick or injured while performing their duties. The rides also memorialize those who have died in the line of duty. The 2013 East Coast ride will begin in Rockland, Maine, on May 18, and plans to continue to Philadelphia, arriving on May 25. The group covers approximately 80 to 100 miles each day, stopping en route at firehouses and EMS stations “for remembrance ceremonies and rest stops,” according to Jennifer Lyon, the director, route coordinator, and public information officer for this year’s national bike ride.

The ride’s run coincides with EMS Week.

The East Coast group will be riding through Connecticut on May 21-22, leaving from Worcester, Mass., that Tuesday morning and staying overnight in Waterbury. On the morning of May 22, a ceremony at Library Park in Waterbury, at 9:30 am, will recognize “all the Connecticut paramedics who we have lost this year as well as all the others throughout the United States.”

The Waterbury stop will be a personal one for Ms Lyon, who will be paying her respects to Jon Fleming, a Connecticut paramedic who died in October 2012 of undiagnosed cardiac disease.

“He was a dear friend,” said Ms Lyons, her voice breaking. “He had really wanted to come on this ride with us.”

Following the Waterbury ceremony, the group will then ride into Newtown, for another ceremony, this one in support the EMS providers who were involved with the events of 12/14. The riders plan to recognize first responders from Sandy Hook, Newtown, and Danbury, and honor their commitment and dedication.

“These will be two very different presentations,” Ms Lyon said on May 14. “Waterbury will be focused on all the EMS providers lost, with special focus on the Connecticut providers lost. We will remember and celebrate the lives of those fallen.”

The stops along the East Coast Ride will honor 72 people, including six from Connecticut who have died within the past year.

“In Newtown,” she continued, “our focus will shift to thanking the first responders who are still with us. This is going to be an opportunity that we have never had before. We’re very excited, very honored, to be able to share our support with providers that are standing in front of us.”

The Newtown event will take place at Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps headquarters, at 77 Main Street. Jeremy Rodorigo, Northeast business development manager at American Medical Response, and Jonathan Best, director of Preparedness & Response, Connecticut Department of Public Health, will both be speaking.

“EMS organizations, both ambulance and fire, have been contacted,” Bob Virgalla, a member of Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps who has been helping organize the Newtown stop, said this week. The New Haven-based EMS service CMED “and other agencies that deployed [ambulances and crews] that day have also been invited,” he added.

“We have also invited state and local police, [Acting Superintendent of Newtown Schools] Dr Reed, members of the local dispatch center, and all of the providers who were part of the event that day,” said Ms Lyon. “All of them have been contacted. Whether or not they choose to participate, it’s up to them. We understand either way.”

The full event, which will include lunch, is expected to last about an hour. The public “is definitely welcome to attend,” said Ms Lyon.

“I think all of us realize that this was our hometown,” said Ms Lyon, a paramedic who will be participating in her fifth ride next week. “It didn’t matter where you came from. This affected us all, deeply, because it could have happened in our own backyard.”

The group plans to arrive around noon for their Newtown visit. They will hit the brakes again in Katonah, N.Y., for their next overnight stop. Wednesday’s ride is just over 54 miles total.

True to their name, the cyclists should be arriving in Newtown on Wednesday right around their scheduled time. Participants ride, according to the Muddy Angels website, “snow, rain or shine.”

For those who want to watch for the group, their route has them coming into town from Southbury following Route 6. They will stay on Route 6 into Sandy Hook Center, and then for the full length of Church Hill Road, before turning north-northwest onto Route 6/25, following Main Street to the ambulance garage.

After the ceremony, the cyclists will head south on Route 25, then pick up Route 302, heading into Bethel. (For a look at each leg of the East Coast Ride, click here.)

In addition to the East Coast Ride, Muddy Angels also holds a three-day event in Kentucky and Colorado. This year the group is also introducing a four-day West Coast Ride. Hundreds of EMS riders and volunteers as well as thousands of EMS professionals coordinate efforts for the rides.

The ride originated in 2002 with only nine riders, following 9/11. “It has grown significantly over the years,” Ms Lyon said. “We have ER physicians, EMTs, paramedics, vet techs … all ride, some for one day, many for the full week.”

The East Coast Ride currently has 140 participants registered, which includes riders and support personnel. Riders range from age 12 to 76, and are “truly all different abilities,” said Ms Lyon.

The vision of the NEMSMBR is to see recognition of EMS as a profession, a reduction in debilitating injuries and line of duty deaths in EMS, and a national EMS accountability system. According to the mission of Muddy Angels, it is the hope of the organization that its events will focus attention on the accomplishments of all EMS personnel, and educate the community at large about the need for improved safety standards, injury prevention, disability tracking, and death benefits for EMS personnel and their families.

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