Nicole and Katie Cassidy each bike approximately 65 miles every year. It just happens to all take place on the same day.
Since 2009, the sisters and their mother, Judy, attended the Ben to Shore charity race, until this year known as the Tour de Shore. Now in its 32nd year, the race raises funds year-round to support police officers and their families, particularly families of officers who had died in the line of duty.
In 2009, Katie and Nicole (who goes by Colby) stood at the finish line for the race, which as the name suggests departs from the Ben Franklin Bridge and concludes at the Showboat Hotel in Atlantic City. Judy was participating under the encouragement of their aunt, and the sisters realized they should have been on a bike next to them to honor their father, Chuck Cassidy.
“He would hate a lot of this – having his picture hanging up for everyone to see, being called a hero,” Colby said. “In his mind he was just doing his job.”
Cassidy was a Philadelphia officer killed in the line of duty in 2007 when he walked into a store while a robbery was in progress. While she was biking, Judy, a Holme Circle resident, said she heard his voice in her head, telling her “get off the bike.” She made it across the Ben Franklin Bridge to the mile marker designated with his name.
“We have always asked people never to forget,” Colby said. “Here we are, almost 12 years later, and this will be Team Cassidy’s biggest year yet.”
Growing gradually every year, this year Team Cassidy will have almost 60 riders and the goal to fundraise $10,000. Combined, the team has raised over $55,000 for the race over the past decade, hosting happy hours at McNally’s Tavern. The race is the one day a year the sisters bike – in the past, Katie even had to pull an all-nighter to complete her work shift and participate in the race the next day.
In many ways, the Cassidys represent the spirit of the race, which has always focused on camaraderie and positivity, said founder Mark O’Connor.
“When these tragedies occur, everybody reaches out to the families and it’s very heartfelt, but then they move on with their lives. And this is what goes on for the rest of your life,” O’Connor said. “I think our ride became a way for a lot of people to say hey, we haven’t forgotten you, we support you and love you.”
In 2017 and 2018, the event raised over $1.1 million each year that went to 45 local children’s charities, 32 police-youth alliance programs and families of fallen first responders.
Along with the race name, the former Tour de Shore Children’s Foundation changed its name to the Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation to more accurately reflect the mission.
“New name, same mission,” O’Connor said.
That doesn’t mean much about the race will change logistically. This year, about 2,600 riders and another 2,500 of their family members and friends are expected to participate in the race, which will take place Sunday, July 28. Riders going the full 65 miles will leave at 6th and Race streets at 7 a.m., or riders participating in the 50-mile route will leave from Berlin, New Jersey at 8 a.m. Both races will finish at the Showboat Hotel.
For O’Connor and Judy, it’s the after-party that embodies the upbeat spirit of the event. Even though most people there are members of a “club no one wants to be in” as O’Connor said, riders use the time to socialize and focus on the positivity of the event.
“Everybody’s there for a reason, and it’s just comfortable there,” Judy said.
More information and registration can be found at FBBCF.org.