SARANAC LAKE - Dan Reilly of Saranac Lake will be joining the Adirondack Garda cycling club for the annual Tour De Force ride in early September.
The four-day, 270-mile ride is in honor of law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty and a fundraiser for their families. This year's ride will start on Sept. 8 and go from the Freedom Towers, located at the site of the former World Trade Center, to the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The route changes annually.
Tour de Force started in 2002 after New York City Police Detective Robert De Paolis rode his bike to honor police officers that gave their live in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Plattsburgh police detective Bruce Martin, left, and retired state trooper Bob Cronin raise hands during the last year’s Tour De Force.
(Photo — Tom Roberts)
He was then joined by seven other members of the New York City police department, a member of the Bronx District Attorney's Office and four volunteer support personnel. During the trip, the group cycled their way from the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., to Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.
In 2003, the Tour de Force was incorporated in the state of New York as a nonprofit charity.
Reilly will be joining the Adirondack Garda cycling club that consists of members based in the North Country. The majority are retired and active law enforcement personnel. Nine club members are riding this year.
Reilly is riding as a emergency first responder, which he does as a ski patroller at Whiteface Mountain. Reilly, like the others involved, is raising money for families of officers who have fallen in the line of duty.
"For me, it's a great cause and it's a great sporting event because it's an endurance thing," said Reilly, an experienced cyclist who is a regular in local competitions.
Adirondack Garda is led by Schuyler Falls resident Bob Cronin, a state trooper who worked out of the Plattsburgh barracks until retiring in 2002.
Cronin is extremely enthusiastic about the Tour Du Force ride. In fact, two of the last four years of the event, he has been the top fundraiser. Adirondack Garda as a whole is generally at the top of the fundraising chart.
"My first pedal stroke - it was downtown Boston. I was hooked," Cronin recalled about his first ride several years ago. "I had to call my wife, and I said 'I'm never not doing this.' And my wife and or son have either been at the start line or finish line every year."
Adirondack Garda members raise money in a number of ways. They write letters to potential donors, hold raffles and host fundraisers. They are having one at Bobby's Lounge on South Catherine Street in Plattsburgh at 5 p.m. on Aug. 23.
Members also collect returnable cans and bottles. Reilly has collected about 2,000 so far for about $100. But that's actually nowhere near what Cronin normally collects.
"Last year I raised $3,500 in beer cans, soda and water," he said.
Cronin said that overall the Tour De Force raised $337,000 last year prior to the ride.
"People we ask for donations are amazing," Cronin said. "Last year, I raised well over $17,000 by myself. I graduated from high school in 1969. I got over $1,000 from my class."
Many people donate because of the cause, one that is especially important to active and retired law enforcement such as Cronin and those in Adirondack Garda. The ride itself, while it is inspiring, also has its sad moments. Adirondack Garda member and Plattsburgh police detective Bruce Martin recalled that while he was hooked right away while doing his first one, it was still difficult.
"It was very emotional," Martin said. "I started tearing up."
But through these difficult times, those involved bond, hoping to offer whatever help they can.
"There's sadness, but joy," Cronin said. "We have to do it. We wish we didn't have to do it. "
Cronin and Martin have even gone so far as to personally present money to the families of victims, including one family in Syracuse.
"I personally have done three presentations to families," Cronin said. "Sadly, two were troopers and one was a deputy. The money doesn't bring the kids back or family back, but it shows you we don't forget your mom or day, things like that."
Reilly, this being his first time, is excited to be able to do the ride and contribute to a good cause.
"I'm really excited," he said. "I think it's going to be a really memorable experience. I'm happy that I've raised quite a bit of money, and I'm trying to raise some more."
Those that want to donate toward the Tour De Force cause may contact at Reilly at 891-1616 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Fundraiser raffle tickets are also available at Compass Printing Plus, Ampersound music store, Post Office Pharamacy and HomEnergy in Saranac Lake.
For more information about the event, visit www.tourdeforceny.com.