The foundation plans to construct a monument in Ottawa to honour paramedics who lost their lives in the line-of-duty across Canada.
“This cause is really important to me,” said Lindsay Kellosalmi, the ride organizer and a Kelowna-based paramedic. “Every emergency responder deserves to go home at the end of their shift to their families. One person who doesn’t make it is one too many. In BC we have ten people who have died in the line of duty.”
The 400-km, four-day ride from Osoyoos to Kamloops was an emotional experience for Kellosalmi and the other 12 riders and three support crew members.
“Every morning we’d have an opening ceremony where we would read aloud the names of our fallen brothers and sisters and share personal stories about why we were riding,” Kellosalmi said. “It meant a lot for each of us to be there.”
The intent of the ride was not only to raise funds for the monument but also raise awareness of some of the struggles facing paramedics and all emergency responders. Kellosalmi sent hundreds of emails trying to organize food and shelter for the team and was surprised by everyone’s willingness to support the cause.
“Everyone wants to help out paramedics,” she said. “From local ‘Mom and Pop’ restaurants to hotels to just people on the side of the road who would meet us, cheer us on and donate money, the support we received was amazing.”
Kellosalmi said the event surpassed all her expectations and that the volunteer riders and support crew were welcomed by paramedics who came out to cheer them on as they passed through different communities.
“Lindsay deserves all the credit. She is a true angel for our staff,” said Kamloops duty supervisor Keith Taylor who provided crew support throughout the ride with unit chief Troy Clifford and paramedic Sarah Bender. “I’m happy I was able to be support for her and the entire team for this cause that is so personal and important to us all. We felt part of a bigger team. The entire group bonded and we all became close friends by the end of the four days.”
The riding team included out-of-province paramedics Sarah Salvia, Anne-Marie Paquet and Luke Flowers, South Okanagan District Manager Anne Benn, Sandra Gerrard of the ParaCARE team, Lower Mainland paramedics Al Pruden and Jeff Krauss, recent retirees Bob Lee and Will Rogers, Enderby paramedic Chris Hui, Dawson Creek unit chief Sarah Shaw and Campbell River unit chief Paul Juszko.
“The whole team was awesome,” Kellosalmi said. “They are really what made this such a success!”
The ride concluded with a barbecue celebration at the Honour House Ranch, a new facility in Kamloops that offers mental health treatment and a refuge for emergency responders struggling with psychological disorders associated with occupational stress. Upon arrival at the ranch, the team was met by the APBC Honour Guard who marched them into the facility.
Although the ride has just concluded and the final amount raised has not been tallied, Kellosalmi is already thinking about next year. She hopes next year’s ride will be ever bigger and better.
“Having a permanent place to honour paramedics who have paid the ultimate sacrifice is close to all our hearts,” she said. “Coast to coast across Canada, we are all riding to honour our brothers and sisters we have lost and that’s really special.”