The memorial ride to Ottawa is the brainchild of Dave Cossitt, a Captain with Toronto Fire Services and the President of the Toronto Professional Firefighter’s Celtic Society (TPFFC). The purpose of the ride is to raise awareness and funds for the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
The inaugural ride of 2017 included 13 riders and raised $5,500 for the CFFF, coinciding with Canada's 150th anniversary the Government of Canada establishing the Firefighters’ National Memorial Day as the second Sunday in September. The first ride was a two-day, 433 km ride from Toronto to Ottawa stopping the first night in Napanee. The 2017 memorial was hosted by Halifax to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the great harbour explosion of 1917.
The 2017 Inaugural Ride (Brad Morin)
In 2018 there were no rooms in the proverbial Inn at Napanee so the first night's stay was in Kingston, a mere 270km ride from the start in Toronto. A total of 26 riders cruised into Kingston at dusk escorted by Kingston’s finest. The Toronto riders were joined by riders from Hamilton and Ottawa, a start of the expansion of the Ride into a truly national event. The inclusion of Velofix for repair and an increase in sponsorship made for a better-supported ride, and the riders were able to raise $10,000.
In 2019 the number of riders increased again to 40 riders as well as an additional day and a new start in Hamilton. Hamilton volunteers did some exceptional fundraising through music events and auctions, contributing significantly to that year's tally of $27,495. Stops in Port Hope the first night followed by Kingston the second kept the daily distances reasonable even as the riders cranked out over 500km over the three days. The Ride experienced the only serious injury in its history - a fractured hand caused by Toronto's streetcar tracks. Riders from Kingston, and Newfoundland - to name just a few of the increasingly diverse firefighter peloton - joined, making it feel like a truly national event.
The following year COVID reared its ugly head canceling both the Ride as well as the memorial ceremony. Dave kept the flame alive, organizing a short ride from Oakville to the Toronto Harbour Front Firehall. Just before the ride, the skies opened up and dumped a month’s rain on the 30 riders before they departed Oakville. Despite these setbacks, the Ride still managed to raise $23,718.
The ride returned in 2021 with 56 riders despite a virtual memorial ceremony at Lebreton Flats. This led to the ill-conceived idea for two Toronto riders to return back to Toronto by bike in two days. They somehow lived to tell the tale. Our first rider from Quebec joined and jersey sales and an auction from Ottawa added $3,500 to the total donation of $88,066 to the CFFF, becoming the largest fundraiser for the foundation.
The 2021 Riders at the Toronto Training Centre (Larry Thorne)
The memorial ceremony was back in-person in 2022 as the world emerged from COVID, and the ride was graced with beautiful weather from start to finish. The ride welcomed some new additions to keep the rider tally at 56. While not achieving 2021's lofty heights, fundraising still brought in $85,021 making the Ride the CFFF's biggest fundraiser for the second year in a row.
The ride has become such an anticipated event that 2023's registration exceeded expectations just from past riders with only a handful who will be joining us for the first time. The Toronto Fire Celtic Society's Memorial Ride to Ottawa has raised over close to a quarter of a million dollars for the CFFF, raising awareness across our route, and across our nation. We hope to exceed last year's fundraising totals, and we look forward to seeing our friends again as we embark on this amazing experience. The Ride is only possible due to the generosity of our sponsors, our support staff, as well as Dave's leadership & vision.
Celebration in 2022 (Mark Cooper)
thanks to Marc Dunn for his contributions and indefatigable optimism