Carolina Brotherhood cyclists ride 600 miles to honor fallen first responders

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Six-hundred miles worth of pedaling, pain and perspiration may seem like a taxing sacrifice to make. But, to the Carolina Brotherhood, it’s a journey intended to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

On Thursday, members of the Carolina Brotherhood – a charity event established in 2012 with the mission of raising funds for the families of fallen first responders and honoring their memories – rode their bicycles for about 126 miles, from Siler City to Sherrills Ford. The 2018 ride honors 17 North and South Carolina public safety heroes who were lost in the line of duty in 2016.

“As I’m riding, I feel my legs are burning, I feel like I want to stop, I think about the reason why I’m doing this,” said Chris Branham, of South Carolina, who has been in the fire service for 22 years. “They gave the ultimate sacrifice, you know, for us.”

One of the first responders honored this year is Forsyth County Sheriffs Deputy John Isenhour, who died on Sept. 28, 2016, after being hit by a vehicle while directing traffic at a different cycling event at Tanglewood Park.

“He was struck by a motorist who just never saw him,” Forsyth County Sheriff William Schatzman said. “It was a tragedy for the agency, certainly for his wife and family.”

Around 11 a.m. Thursday, the cyclists arrived at Forsyth County EMS Station 8 on East Fifth Street. There, they remembered Isenhour, before heading to the Clemmons Fire Department and then pausing outside Tanglewood Park.

“In the middle of July, in the hot heat, here they are out there,” said Beth Hutchens, whose husband - Winston-Salem Police Sergeant Mickey Hutchens – was shot and killed in the line of duty in 2009. “I cannot tell you what it means to any family member to have their person remembered.”

“Just getting a smile, or a thank you, or a hug,” Branham said. “That alone is what it’s about.”

The Carolina Brotherhood Ride is an annual cycling event made up of active and retired firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency medical personnel from both North and South Carolina. This year, their route began in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, and will end in Pineville. ​