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Fallen first responders: How the Canada 911 Ride Foundation honours those we’ve lost

June 6, 2023  By Brittani Schroeder

Photo credit: Canada 911 Ride Foundation

Jim Adamson was a police officer with the Toronto Police Service for 36 years. Over the course of his career, he saw many incidents that “most people should never see”. Within two years of beginning his policing career, he knew he wanted to find a way to give back to Canadian communities, because he saw it as an honour to serve them. “It may sound hokey, but I sincerely mean that if I could go out and make a difference in somebody’s life, I thought I’d done a good job,” he says. Later in Adamson’s career, he became an instructor at the Toronto Police College and an instructor in Seneca College’s police foundations program.

Adamson was working at the Toronto Police College on Sept. 11, 2001. He and a number of his colleagues—who worked in the officer safety section—wanted to go to New York and assist where they could. “We offered our services, and they were actually declined because there weren’t enough accommodations for all the first responders who had come to help. They were so overwhelmed with people coming into the city.”

Adamson and his colleagues still wanted to assist in some way, so they created and printed a batch of T-shirts for a fundraiser. On the back of the shirt was a graphic of a flagpole, bearing both the Canadian and American flags; on the front were the NYPD and the New York Port Authority crests. “We sold the shirts for $10 each, and within 60 days, we had raised a substantial amount of money. We went down to the Rosewood Ballroom in Manhattan and presented a cheque for $100,000 to the NYPD and Port Authority Police Widows and Orphans Fund.”

Jim Adamson, along with Dan Lawrence – President, Markham Outdoor Power and others, went to the United States to join a motorcycle ride to honour those who were lost in the attacks. “It was huge—we’re talking at least a thousand motorcycles and riders who went from state to state,” says Brian Claman, who joined the Canada 911 Ride Foundation in 2016.

“The ride started in Pennsylvania and we went to the crash site where the plane went down in a field; we rode to the Pentagon and saw the destruction that had happened there; and we finished in New York at Ground Zero where there was still a gaping hole in the ground.” shares Adamson. “I thought, God forbid something like this happens in Canada.”

When they returned home, they shared a passion for creating a similar ride in Canada. It would honour fallen first responders who were killed in the line of duty and assist children who have been impacted as a result of a criminal act. Adamson says that this is when the Canada 911 Ride Foundation was created.

The foundation

The first Canada 911 ride happened 2006. There has been an annual ride for the past 17 years, and the foundation has been able to raise over $1 million in support of its causes.

“In the beginning, the ride started out really small. We had some support from the Toronto Police Traffic Services and the Ontario Provincial Police Golden Helmets team led by Chief Supt. Dave Wall.

Each year during the annual motorcycle ride, the families of the fallen first responders and the victims of crime are invited to the Saturday night banquet where the fallen are honoured. Each year, the ride attracts approximately 120 riders who participate in the two-day ride over a weekend in August, and it takes place in different parts of Ontario. The ride is always fully police-escorted, the only one of its kind in Canada. EMS teams typically follow the route in support of the ride as well.

“We also get a lot of support from those in the fire service, especially Fire Chief Rick Harrison of the Township of Brock. Once we tell him about our route for the ride each year, he contacts all the fire services along the route, and they’ll be out there cheering us on, waving at us from the side of the road or on overpasses, and raising Canadian flags on their ladders and trucks. There was one year that our route went from Richmond Hill to Niagara Falls, and there was a firetruck and fire service personnel on every overpass during that ride,” says Adamson.

“About 10 years ago, we created a second annual ride that takes place in Atlantic Canada. We’re looking at creating a Western Canada ride, but we’re still looking to find our strategic partners out west. We’d love to start that up,” Claman shares.

Partnering with The Mikey Network

Early in the creation of the foundation, a strategic partnership with The Mikey Network was put in place. Their mission is to provide public access to defibrillators, AEDs, in public locations so that people’s lives can be saved. For the fallen officers, firefighters and paramedics, and the children who are victims of crime, The Mikey Network and the Canada 911 Ride Foundation donate a Mikey defibrillator. “In this way, when we donate it in their name, they may continue to serve their communities after passing,” says Claman.

A recent example of this kind of donation was made in honour of 10-year-old Julianna Kozis, who was killed in a Danforth shooting in Toronto when she was out to dinner with her family. “When I spoke to the surviving members of Julianna’s family, they said they wanted to give back to the community where the shooting happened, and so we donated a Mikey defibrillator to the Shopper’s Drug Mart in the area so that there will always be public access to the device when it’s needed,” says Adamson.

The 2023 ride

This year, the Ontario Canada 911 ride will be dedicated to the police officers who have been killed since Sept. 2022. “This has been a terrible year in terms of first responder loss of life. Usually, and thankfully, losses in Canada are about one per year. Now we’ve had more than 10 in the span of less than a year,” says Claman.

Cst. Andrew Hong of the Toronto Police Service was the first of the 10 to be killed on duty in Sept. 2022. Cst. Hong was a member of the Canada 911 Ride family who had taken part in the annual ride for many years. “When Andrew was killed, we started a GoFundMe page to create an additional endowment for his children, and we were able to raise $114,000. His children were headed off to university and medical school, and we knew it was important to help where we could,” Claman explains.

“Andrew’s call sign with the Toronto Police was Highway Motor 19, and his nickname was Honger. This year we’ll be hosting a special ride on the Friday, called Honger’s Rolling Thunder, specifically to honour him. Anyone who is registered for the weekend ride is invited to partake in the Friday ride as well,” says Adamson.

As a final note, Claman shares, “When we lose a first responder, we all feel it – it’s an attack on all first responders. This is just one of the many ways that we want to give back. We’re passionate about continuing this for many years to come.”

Editor’s note: To learn more about the Canada 911 Ride Foundation, please visit

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