“Extremely special:” Cyclists riding from Illinois to Minnesota to honor first responders who have passed

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GLENDALE -- First responders are the people we turn to in our worst moments. They offer medical attention and reassurance. More than a decade ago, a North Shore Fire/Rescue firefighter was killed on his way to work -- and his life is one of many being honored during the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride.

National EMS Memorial Bike Ride

Their names were written in chalk, and then read aloud. Ninety first responders were honored. All have passed on, but their memories are cherished in the communities they left behind.

Scott Schumacher

Scott Schumacher

One of the names read was Scott Schumacher of Kenosha.

"Thanks for recognizing Scott and thanks for doing this," Jeff Flasch said.

Scott Schumacher

Scott Schumacher

At a stop during the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride Sunday, June 26th, Flasch recalled the firefighter who died in 2015.

"This cancer thing must be a powerful thing to be able to take down a superman like Scott Schumacher," Flasch said.

Schumacher's name was among many on dog tags worn around the necks of a dozen bicyclists.

On Sunday, the group started a five-day, 400-mile bike ride from Illinois to Minnesota -- through Wisconsin.

National EMS Memorial Bike Ride

"It's going good. The thighs are burning a little bit," Kelsey Schwuchow said.

Dale Merrill

Dale Merrill

Schwuchow took part in this ride to honor Dale Merrill -- wearing his picture on her backpack.

"He was actually the ambulance driver who showed up when my mom was giving birth to me," Schwuchow said.

The heat on Sunday, with temperatures near 90, made their ride a true labor of love.

"We know that there's a reason for doing this," Scott Cravens said.

They stopped in St. Francis for a refreshing spray from a fire hydrant and a break in the shade.

National EMS Memorial Bike Ride

Cravens said the ride isn't easy, but the names riders wear around their necks push them to continue.

"(That helps give us the strength, inspires us," Cravens said.

Arriving in Glendale, they met with the friends and family members of North Shore responder John Harrington.

"It's extremely special," James Gefke said.

John Harrington (left)

John Harrington (left)

Harrington died 12 years ago in a bike accident on his way to work for North Shore Fire/Rescue.

"We miss him more than anything, but we're always happy to have events like this to help keep his memory alive," Gefke said.

The National EMS Memorial Bike Ride honors those who died from natural and unnatural causes. Bicyclists will spend the night in Glendale Sunday night, and hit the road again on Monday. Their final stop will be in Woodbury, Minnesota.

National EMS Memorial Bike Ride

National EMS Memorial Bike Ride

Here is a schedule:

Orientation: 5:00 p.m June 25th at starting hotel, Northbrook, IL area
June 26th (Day 1) Northbrook, IL to Milwaukee, WI
June 27th (Day 2) Milwaukee, WI to Green Bay, WI
June 28th (Day 3) Green Bay, WI to LaCrosse, WI
June 29th (Day 4) LaCrosse, WI to Lake City, MN
June 30th (Day 5) Lake City, MN to Woodbury, MN
Closing Ceremony/Public Memorial Service: Woodbury Public Safety, 2100 Radio Drive, Woodbury, MN @ 3:30 p.m.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride.