The Gott Volunteer Fire Department in Warren County will honor the legacy of a former firefighter by embarking Friday on a 220-mile bicycle ride to the Kentucky Fallen Firefighter Memorial in Frankfort.
The memorial ride will be in honor of Kyle Hendrick, a 19-year-old firefighter who was killed two miles from his family’s home when a tanker he was operating overturned during a water-shuttle training exercise Nov. 16, 2000. After Hendrick’s grandmother and father both passed away unexpectedly last fall, Gott VFD Assistant Chief Craig Peay said he began thinking of a way to honor the Hendrick family’s legacy and impact in the Gott community.
“As I was at the funerals and was talking with the family one day, I thought it’d be nice for the fire department and the community to do something for the Hendrick family in Kyle’s memory to show that we’re there for ’em,” Peay told the Daily News. “They’ve been there for us from day one, and it’ll just kind of lift ’em up a little bit in spirit, you know, give ’em something exciting going on and after 19 years of Kyle being passed away, kind of give the family a little boost.”
Teresa Hendrick, Kyle’s mother, said Peay approached her after she lost her mother-in-law Oct. 10 and her husband Oct. 31. Teresa Hendrick said the fire department has “always been there” for her family and taken an interest in “keeping Kyle’s memory alive,” which has meant “so much.”
“It’s been almost 19 years since Kyle passed away and you always want people to remember them – you know, as the years go by people go on with their own lives,” Teresa Hendrick told the Daily News. “When Craig came to me and said they wanted to do this – I can’t even explain how wonderful that felt to know that – they didn’t have to do that, nobody asked them to and it just meant the world to me and my daughter.”
Donations for the memorial ride are being accepted at all BB&T Bank locations, Peay said. Any donations will be used to provide the initial startup for an educational fund, which will be utilized by Hendrick’s “very young” niece and nephew years down the road when they’re finishing high school.
“My grandchildren did not ever know Kyle, and he loved children,” Teresa Hendrick said as she held back tears. “They’re just 4 and 6. Of course we talk about Kyle to them, so they know who he is, but I think when they reach that age to go to college and the fund is to help them – it’s hard to explain – I think they’ll be so, so appreciative and then they also will remember how well the fire department remembered him and did something for them.”
Peay was previously the chief of the fire department for 17 years, including when Kyle Hendrick was killed, so he said it was particularly important for him to organize the ride and the educational fund.
“Of course when I kind of presented it to the family – they cried,” Peay said. “We ended up all crying, just because it kind of brings back memories and makes ’em think that, you know, Kyle’s still thought about throughout the community and throughout the fire department.”
A group of 28 firefighters help the volunteer fire department provide safety and assistance to the communities of Gott, Three Forks, Loving, Bristow, Oakland and Sunnyside. Three of those firefighters – including Peay – will form a riding group with three EMS personnel and two community members.
Corporate sponsors will provide support vehicles, safety equipment, clothing, food items and funding for the event, according to a submitted letter.
“Can’t have (all of the firefighters) doing it because that kind of gets to be a little issue,” Peay joked. “You know, not everybody rides a bike and can ride a bike 220 miles, but they’ve helped with some support things and helped get some donations to kind of put this educational fund at a start so then the family can continue on with it. Even the churches in the Gott community have pledged some money for the educational fund to get them going and get things moving.”
The eight-person bicycling team will depart from the fire station at 5590 Porter Pike at 6 a.m. Friday. The riders expect to arrive at Juniper Hill Park at 800 Louisville Road in Frankfort about 4:30 p.m. Once everyone has arrived at the Kentucky Fallen Firefighter Memorial site, riders will have a short memorial prayer service and place a special wreath on Kyle Hendrick’s memorial plaque about 4:45 p.m.
“We’re going to be doing a presentation with the family – the family is gonna drive up and (U.S. Rep.) Brett Guthrie is providing a memorial firefighter wreath that we’re going to present there at the stone that’s got (Kyle Hendrick’s) name and stuff etched in it,” Peay said. “We’re gonna bring it back with us and we are scheduling a date with the whole Hendrick family at the fire department to present the wreath to them for them to have.”
Peay said the wreath will be a small token of appreciation for the Hendrick family, which was instrumental in creating the Gott fire department in 1977. Members of the family have been firefighters, board members and Hendrick’s grandfather was chief for 12 years.
“They’ve always had somebody in the fire department since the day it started,” Peay said.
“At times, we’ve had more trucks than we had facility,” Peay said. “And the Hendrick family has supplied an open shed barn on their property for us to store fire trucks and go there to get the truck to make a run or they’ve jumped in the truck and brought it to us ... even in the mid-’90s we had to have trucks at their house and their farm before we built our addition on just to have the room for vehicles.”
Teresa Hendrick said it’s “hard to put in words” how appreciative she is for the fire department going so far to honor her son and family. The riding team has been practicing heavily in preparation for such a long trip, which makes her feel “overwhelmed” with pride about their intense dedication to the cause.
“I can’t even ride a bicycle down the road without being out of breath,” Teresa Hendrick quipped. “I just could not even imagine riding a bicycle that far, and for them to do that and put a wreath on that memorial – it just makes you really proud to be a part of that community because that community sticks together. To show our family the love that they’ve showed, it just means a lot.”
– Daily News reporter Drake Kizer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 270-783-3257.