EagleHerald News Manager

MENOMINEE—If you’re driving around town today or Tuesday and notice the pace is slower than usual, you may be behind the Bike to Fight Cancer group as they bike through town.

A group of 12 riders, followed by a 6-person support crew in a truck, will bike through the area during the Bike to Fight Cancer ride. The group, with all 18 members of the Chicago Fire Department, will make several stops along the way including an overnight stop in Peshtigo today and a water break in Menominee Tuesday morning.

The annual event, with the exception of 2020 because of COVID-19, is promoting Ignite the Spirit as well as raising funds for Chicago firefighters and their families. Michael Lopez, a retired paramedic field chief of the Chicago Fire Department, after serving the people of that city for 33 years, and one of the riders, added, “cancer is one of the occupational hazards of being a firefighter, with all the chemicals and fires nowadays.”

The bike ride has been held the last few years with trips to Toronto, Pittsburgh and Nashville, Tennessee, each totaling about 500 miles long, with this year’s trek to Mackinaw City, Michigan, coming in at roughly 490 miles. Usually there are 14 people biking, with a 6-person support crew. This year two people had to drop out, with one who is training for the Chicago Marathon and couldn’t do both events and the other having to take care of family matters which didn’t allow for the proper training.

The group, including Michael Lopez, one of the riders, will make a special stop in Menominee during the journey. Only a couple of blocks off the route is the home of Michael and Lorraine Karpinski. The Karpinskis’ son, Michael, and daughter-in-law, Robin, were both friends with Lopez since the Karpinskis moved next door in McKinley Park, in the center of Chicago, years ago.

Reminiscing about the “kids,” Michael Karpinski said, “We can’t say enough for (Michael). Because it used to be, if you saw Michael (Karpinski), you’d see Robin and (Michael Lopez). Then eventually, my son married Robin. They were best friends. They were The Three Musketeers, I’ll tell you.”

Lopez had the chance to visit with Michael and Lorraine at a graduation party in the Chicago area and mentioned the upcoming ride.

“We got to talk to him and his wife,” said Lorraine. “And I actually really did not know that (Michael) did all of this, you know, riding the bike for so many miles. So we were kind of surprised at that.” Lorraine and Michael shared the sentiment that Lopez was always athletic and talked fondly of him coming over to swim at their home in Chicago as a child.

Menominee isn’t the only stop they’re making along the way. The riders will also make a stop in Port Washington, Wisconsin, to drop off a check for the family of a firefighter who recently died.

“We don’t just help members of Chicago,” Lopez said. “We heard about a firefighter that was out collecting money doing small bike rides to get more AEDs (automated external defibrillators) for the fire department. As he was doing that, he was struck by a car on his bike and (died).”

Ignite the Spirit, a nonprofit organization, was developed in the wake of 9/11 to help firefighters and their families who need help. Since its inception in 2003, the group has helped more than 500 families and raised over $1 million dollars.

To donate, people may visit https://www.ignitethespirit.org/ and scroll down to the Bike to Fight Cancer graphic.