For Roxborough resident and Philadelphia Fire Department Lieutenant Ken Pagurek, turning 50 is a reason to celebrate, and that’s exactly what he will be doing on July 28 as he rides 65 miles on his bicycle from Philadelphia to Atlantic City in the Ben to the Shore Bike tour.
A cycling enthusiast for years, Ken heard about this bike ride, formerly known as the Tour de Shore, and fell in love with its mission to help fallen and injured first responders and their families.
A member of team Philly Fire, Ken will join more than 2,500 bike riders for an emotional ride over the Ben Franklin Bridge and across New Jersey.
“Anytime we lose a brother or sister first responder it hits home,” said Pagurek. “Coming together to support the impacted families speaks to the professions and type of character on display from all of these riders. This ride is all about the people we support. It’s about those fallen first responders and their families.”
Known for 31 years as the Tour de Shore, the new name was adopted for 2019, but organizers have remained true to the spirit of the original event. Enhancements have been made to better reflect the evolutions happening in charitable and fitness communities since the ride debuted in 1987, to embrace a more diverse community in the ride and its mission, and to transition a single “bike ride” to a more meaningful, memorable experience for everyone involved.
Included in the growth of the event is new positioning for the benefiting charity. The former Tour de Shore Children’s Foundation has officially changed its name to Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation in order to more accurately convey the many charities and programs The Ben to the Shore fundraising benefits year-round – a list that has grown considerably over the past decade as society has rallied to more greatly respect, value and support the work of first responders and the sacrifices made by their loved ones.
“The Tour de Shore enjoyed a successful 31-year ride, and it served our benefiting charities well,” said founder Mark O’Connor. “However, as we enhance the experience to drive a greater sense of community and pride, we have chosen to let the name reflect what the tour is really about as well. Moreover, one of the greatest strengths of the tour is that the money raised stays local to support first responders, their families and children throughout our area. Focusing the title of the event on our home better conveys this key attribute.”
For many, this ride represents the only time they get on a bicycle all year, and Ken agrees.
“It’s such a great activity that most people can do, especially if they just train a little,” said Ken. “We see folks of all levels and abilities out here and it’s a wonderful scene.”
With pit stops throughout New Jersey, the tour ultimately finishes at the Showboat in Atlantic City for an after-party with live music and incredible camaraderie. From police and fire departments across the area to EMS and countless other first responders, the day is significant for all involved. Making it even more meaningful, many widows and children of fallen first responders ride or join the after-party, and there will be multiple officers injured in the line of duty participating on modified bicycles.
For Ken, the ride is incredible, but being able to raise money for such a noble cause it what keeps him going.
“I really enjoyed my first year tremendously, so I decided to focus on fundraising. It has become a personal mission for me, and I enjoy trying to raise money for this great cause. I’ll never be the yellow shirt – I try to shave a few minutes every year – but if I could be number one in fundraising that’s my ultimate goal,” he says. Ken’s goal is to raise $5,000 this year and he’s well on his way. “I’ve got a lot of friends and have made contacts with firefighters and officers across the country and I receive support from everywhere. We like taking care of each other and it’s kind of hard not to get behind this mission.”
The Ben to the Shore Bike tour also includes a 50-mile lite ride that takes off from Berlin, New Jersey. Registration costs $75 and all riders are required to raise $200, and participants can sign up until the night before the event. Riders can also opt for return transportation in which they and their bikes are driven back to the starting lines. The start time in Philadelphia is 7 a.m. at Sixth and Race streets and the lite ride begins in Berlin, New Jersey, at 8 a.m. Both routes contain four rest stops with food, drink and first aid services and for more information visit www.fbbcf.org. To support Ken and team Philly Fire, visit https://www.fbbcf.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donordrive.participant&participantID=21717.