(Photo: Britney Brimhall)
PHOENIX — Britney Brimhall and Jonathan Manley are redefining the idea of a “charity bike ride.” Depending only on their bikes for transportation, this duo is riding 3,500 miles through eight countries from Phoenix to Panama City in hopes of collecting $50,000 for charity. Their fundraising will benefit the 100 Club of Arizona, a non-profit organization that provides financial help to families of Arizona police officers and firefighters who are injured or killed in the line of duty.
After selling all of her material possessions and putting her career on hold, 28-year-old Brimhall strapped her few remaining belongings to her bicycle and started off on a four month journey to Central America with friend and fellow adventurer Jonathan Manley. The inspiration for this charity ride comes from her roots in law enforcement and her strong commitment to her brothers and sisters in blue.
In 2006, Brimhall was hired by the Phoenix Police Department and trained to become a sworn officer.
“I was a native of Phoenix, and had always dreamed of becoming a police officer as a means of protecting and helping the community,” Brimhall writes to PoliceOne in an exclusive online interview conducted from her rest stop in Hermosillo, Mexico.
Although she left the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy while training to pursue a career in computer gaming, she remained close with her fellow recruits and hoped to someday join the department again, if not as a career officer than as a Reserve officer, volunteering in her free time.
A few months after leaving the academy, she found out that a Phoenix police officer was shot and killed in the line of duty.
“I decided at that time, I would like to do something committed to supporting the families of fallen officers,” Brimhall says.
She remembered a speech made by the 100 Club at her police academy’s graduation. They had explained the purpose of their charity, which provides financial assistance to families of public safety officers and firefighters who are seriously injured or killed in the line-of-duty, and also provides resources to enhance their safety and welfare.
A few months later, when Brimhall completed her proposal for a lengthy charity bike ride to Panama, another officer was killed on the very day the proposal was submitted.
“After that, I realized that I had made the right decision in allying with the 100 Club,” Brimhall says. “My father died when I was 10 years old … my family was lucky enough to have friends supporting us during that rough time. In a way, the 100 Club offers the same assistance to families in need, and it is a cause I can proudly stand behind.”
Brimhall spends time with Pima County (AZ) sheriff's deputies. (Photo: Britney Brimhall)
Brimhall aptly named her bike riding adventure “Hero’s Quest” after the title of her favorite computer gaming series.
“We’re going on this quest to raise money for those who we consider to be real-life heroes,” Brimhall explains. “Riding from Phoenix to Panama is basically akin to a cross country adventure, but it is a bit harder in that it requires us to adapt to new cultures and a new language, which presents unique challenges. We felt this nicely paralleled the challenges public safety officers face each day. They leave for work, face many unknown difficulties and deal with a diverse population.”
Brimhall is strongly supported by police officers and firefighters across the nation. The day she left on her journey, she was pulled over by one of her classmates from the police academy.
“He offered me his good luck charm, which he wore to work each day on duty to protect him,” Brimhall says. “I am wearing it all the way to Panama.”
She has also received a lot of hospitality from firefighters, staying overnight at a number of stations on her way through Arizona.
Brimhall is no stranger to long bike riding journeys. She has always been passionate about biking and rode across Tanzania, Africa to the base of Mount Kilimanjaro before climbing to the summit of the mountain.
“I wanted to use my passion for cycling for a good cause, see the world, [and] meet new people. I ultimately wanted to learn more about the world and myself in the process,” Brimhall says.
To prepare for the trip to Panama, Brimhall took a side job in private security as an armed bike patrol guard, riding nine hours a night to improve her endurance.
“Not only did it help me prepare for this charity bike ride, but I can now spot drug dealers, burglars, and people who are generally up to no good. I’ve had people threaten my life and try to run me over with their vehicles, so this bike trip by comparison feels like one of the safest things I’ve done all year,” Brimhall says.
After the ride, she has hopes of writing a book about her adventures to continue to raise money and awareness for the 100 Club. Commenting on the prospect of unforeseen difficulties she and her riding partner may encounter during the trip, Brimhall says that they keep a positive attitude:
“While on the road, we always try to maintain an elevated sense of humor and find joy in the simplest things.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
- Read more about Britney Brimhall's adventure on her blog
- Sponsor her charity bike ride and the 100 Club of Arizona.
- Hero's Quest Newsletter