Ridgefield cyclist sets new goal for charitable ride

Ciarán Carruthers rides again.

The Ridgefield resident and avid mountain biker is trying to raise $15,000 to support World TEAM Sports (WTS), a non-profit organization which helps wounded veterans and the disabled find purpose through team-oriented outdoor sports.

Carruthers fund-raising efforts are supported by his longtime friend, Ridgefield Police Dispatcher Bill Browning.

“You don’t have to be a vet,” Carruthers said about WTS. “Everything is through athletics. There’s only two paid employees — I’m not one of them. We’re all volunteers, so over 94% of money raised goes to helping vets.”

This year marks a change of pace for Carruthers, who for the past 11 years rode the 192-mile Pan-Mass Challenge, which runs part of the historic coastline of eastern Massachusetts to raise funds for the Dana-Farber Cancer institute.

That organization was particularly dear to both Carruthers and Browning. Carruthers lost both his parents to cancer in his native Ireland. Browning was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) during a routine physical exam he needed to join the Ridgefield Police Department.

After receiving treatment for CLL, Browning fell from a ladder while doing yardwork, an injury which left him partially paralyzed. He now works for the department as a dispatcher.

“These guys are lacking money,” Carruthers said, explaining why he made the switch from riding the Pan-Mass Challenge to support WTS. “The Pan-Mass will raise $48 million, and these guys took a hit last year.”

On the road again

Carruthers already completed the first of three events for WTS this past April — a two-day road bicycle ride from Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg, Penn.

As an able-bodied rider, Carruthers was on-hand to assist his fellow cyclists, many of whom ride recumbent bicycles, or hand-powered trikes.

“Our job is to keep them safe,” Carruthers said. “We physically push them when necessary — we put poles in the back of the recumbent [bicycles and trikes for disabled riders]. We work with them on hills. With my crew, one thing I always make very clear: it’s not about us. We come home after the weekend, and everything is normal.”

Heading west

He is looking forward to the next, and toughest, event.  

“In September I’m going to Colorado for Adventure TEAM Challenge,” Carruthers said. “That’s a three-day event with teams of five — three able-bodied, one ambulatory, and one paraplegic. There’s rock-climbing, rafting, and mountain-biking, and everybody in every team has to complete everything.”

“He says he won’t take me because I’m too heavy,” interjected Browning, laughing.

“We’re hoping to get him riding on a recumbent soon,” Carruthers said.

West Point to Ground Zero

Despite both having a strong passion for cycling, Carruthers and Browning sadly never had the chance to ride together before Browning’s injury.

After the Colorado stage in September, Carruthers will take part in a one day ride from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to the Ground Zero site in lower Manhattan.

Carruthers runs a tree-specialist business in town, Emerald Organic. He said his Irish upbringing instilled in him a strong belief in the need to give back to the community.

“Some of these kids are coming out of the military in their early 20’s, and they’ve already been retired because of disability. There’s a lot of loneliness, and everything else… Once I [worked with WTS] I fell in love with it.”

Carruthers said he is also supported by Cannondale Bicycles, a local company founded in Wilton.

Readers who would like to contribute to Carruthers and Browning’s goal of $15,000 can email Carruthers at irishtreedoc@yahoo.com for more information, or go to https://give.everydayhero.com/us/fighting-irish to contribute directly. Carruthers recommends writing a check to avoid paying a credit card fee for payment processing.