HARVARD — Plans were already in the works to launch a new fall fundraising effort for the Harvard Firefighters Association when the department was dealt a blow May 4 with the death of Harvard firefighter Ken Harrod at 67.
Harrod had served as lieutenant, captain, alarm inspector and truck driver in his 45-year tenure at the department. He was the Town Hall custodian for many years and was a member of the Harvard Water Department and Harvard Sewer Commission, according to his obituary.
The firefighters have named the bike ride the first Ken Harrod Memorial Bike Ride.
“We were planning on doing the bike ride already,” said firefighter Bill Barton.
“We wanted to do something in addition to the turkey raffle that would bring the town together. What better way to enjoy our town then to take a ride,” he said.
On May 3, firefighters on the bike ride committee had met at the firehouse to plan the event. Following the meeting, firefighter Greg Harrod got a call from his father, Ken Harrod, who couldn’t attend the meeting but had details of the event on his mind.
“We had a brief meeting Monday night after my son’s baseball game. He called me afterwards to see how we made out. He called at 8:30. He was asking all the time how we were doing with sponsors for the bike ride. Then he died the next morning.”
“He wanted another fundraiser. He always wanted something else, so he was very interested in our plans,” said Greg Harrod.
The firefighters agreed that the new fall fundraiser would be named in Ken Harrod’s memory, especially since he enjoyed bicycle rides with his grandson, Greg Harrod’s son, Christopher.
“Ken was very supportive of us doing this and doing more fundraising events that bring the community together,” said firefighter Andrew Perry. “He used to love going bike riding around town with his grandson so…”
“…it made sense,” said Barton. “After his unfortunate passing, it did make sense to say ‘this is for him,’ ” Perry added.
It’s the same kind of intensity that the department recently poured into the Wachusett Fire Muster League contests June 19. “We came home with the whole entire thing,” said Greg Harrod, gesturing to the shiny yard-high trophy in the firehouse.
“It was all dedicated to him. We came home with everything,” said Greg Harrod.
Unlike the muster, the event is open to all and is not a competition or a race. Instead it will be a leisurely bike ride through Harvard, Ken Harrod’s hometown that he served and loved. Other area departments have already signed on to enter bicyclists.
“I’ve talked to Littleton, Ayer and a whole bunch of others,” said Greg Harrod. Christopher Harrod is pretty excited about the event. “He’s wound up,” he said.
There are three course lengths to opt for. There’s a kid-friendly 2-mile loop. And for the more ambitious, there’s a 16-mile loop charted around the outskirts of town.The 32-mile route consists of two loops around the 16-mile course.
With two months to go before the event, the firefighters are trying to spread the word to boost the online registrations for the ride.
“A lot of riders are saying they are going to do it,” Barton said. “We’ve gone to the Nashua River Rail Trail in Ayer and posted it at the General Store. We’re just going out with the flyers over the last couple of weeks; now we need people to sign up.”
Harvard’s firefighters, though, will not be pedaling in the event. They are manning the bike route to keep everyone on track as well as organizing the event.
“They are the work crew,” Harrod said. “Our whole department and family. We’re all working,” said Perry.
Corporate sponsors have signed on, including D. Francis Murphy Insurance Agency, TP Hazel Sotheby’s International Realty in Harvard, Natural Stonewall Solutions in Acton and North Middlesex Savings Bank. More donors are being sought to give or provide in-kind donations.
The firefighters are also asking for donated items for a silent auction. Some of the items currently being donated are a bicycle, a plate made by Ken Harrod, gift certificates and fire-truck rides.
Gear Works Cyclery of Leominster will have a tent set up on the Common to tune up bikes. “They’ll have a couple of techs there to make sure that everybody’s riding safe,” Barton said.
The ride leaves from the Town Common at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11. The first 300 entries will receive a Memorial Bike Ride T-shirt. The website also outlines the ride path around the outskirts of town.
On the day of the ride, the Harvard Lions Club will be set up on the Common to serve hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries.
When asked whether the Sept. 11 date struck a chord with the 911 emergency responders, Barton said, “We were looking for dates and since this is a day or remembrance for the country it made logical sense to hold the event on this day.”
People can register online at www.harvardfire.com/bikeride. The entry fee is $25, which can be paid with a credit card.
Donations and payments to ride can also be addressed to:
Attention: Bill Berthoud, event treasurer
The Harvard Firefighters Association
P.O. Box 613
Harvard, MA 01451
Payment should be made out to the Harvard Firefighters Association.
Registration will close Sept. 5 for the Sept. 11 ride. There are still opportunities to become a corporate sponsor: Contact Ride Chairman Bill Barton at 508-241-1879.
For more information visit www.harvardfire.com/bikeride.