GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. -- Until a few weeks ago, Charles Spirydowski's longest bicycle ride was about three miles -- a jaunt he took with his daughter.
This week, the 37-year-old Housatonic man will attempt a 200-mile ride over the course of three days to raise money and awareness for emergency medical services personnel who've died in the line of duty or from a job-related illness or injury.
Spirydowski, a 20-year veteran and senior emergency medical technician at the Southern Berkshire Volunteer Ambulance Squad in Great Barrington, said he's been training for weeks and is now pedaling 35 miles a day.
Since Spirydowski is attempting his first long-distance ride, he said he'll complete the final leg of the seven-day, 600-mile trek from New York City to Roanoke, Va., the home of the EMS National Memorial. While 45 other riders will pedal off this weekend, Spirydowski joined his fellow cyclists on Wednesday, and he is hoping finish his journey on Friday. A similar bike ride will go from Lexington, Ky., to Roanoke.
"The money raised, after expenses, goes to a national fund for families of deceased EMS members," said Spirydowski. "The event also tries to encourage EMS people to get into shape."
Nationwide last year, 91 emergency medical services personnel died on duty, or as the result of injury or illness while saving lives.
"A lot of the deaths happen due to medical flight crashes," Spirydowski said.
Others, like Barry Bennett from Boston, succumbed to a disease he contracted a few years ago while on the job, he said.Donations for Spirydowski can be sent to Southern Berkshire Volunteer Ambulance Squad, 31 Lewis Ave., Great Barrington, MA 01230. Make checks payable to the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride and write Spirydowski's name on the memo line.