Andi Eck never heard of the Fire and Iron Club until her father perished 18 months ago.
Urban Eck was a 51-year-old Captain with the Wichita Fire Department, and died from health complications after fighting a New Year’s Eve blaze.
So what is the Fire and Iron Club? It’s there to help families like the Ecks, who have eight children. Andover has a terrific one, Station 54. It raised about $10,000 for the Ecks last year.
And that’s what “The Ride,” which will be held Saturday in Andover, is all about. (A schedule will be posted later today on www.andoveramerican.com.) Last year, Eck rode on the poker run on the back of Fire and Iron member Les Mangus’ motorcycle and represented her father’s family as his oldest child.
“My father had a great sense of humor and he absolutely loved to give people a hard time,” said Eck, 30. “But he would also do anything he could to help others. … I can’t even begin to tell you how much it meant to us that the Fire and Iron Club would honor him like that.”
Eck was given a commemorative fire helmet with her father’s badge number engraved on it. She gave it to her 13-year-old sister for Christmas.
“The Ride” also raised about $10,000 last year for the Andover Police and Fire Foundation, which helps supplement the budgets for both departments.
This year, “The Ride” will raise again money for The Police and Fire Foundation, as well as two other causes: the families who suffered most after Sept. 11, 2001 and a new fire science scholarship set up by the Fire and Iron Club.
“The Ride” starts at Timbuktu Bar and Grill, whose owner is heavily involved in all this. Michelle Sell has loved her biker customers for years, and Timbuktu had its own poker run as well as other fundraisers for various causes.
But last year, Sell decided it made sense to combine her business’ poker run with the efforts of the Fire and Iron Club.
“They bring a lot to the table,” Sell said. “They have a lot of manpower, a lot of strength, a lot of passion for helping others – all the things that make the biker world special.”
So Sell approached Jeb Burress, co-founder of the state’s first Fire and Iron Club in 2005 … and a Timbuktu regular.
Page 2 of 2 - Burress, naturally, jumped at the idea of joining forces with Sell and her husband Larry.
“Michelle put a lot of organization to the event,” Burress said. “Some of the guys may get mad that I said that, but it’s true.”
Last year’s event drew more than 500 participants, blowing away anything Timbuktu’s “Burger Run” had ever done before. It was also the largest poker run Fire and Iron had ever put on.
“We both have common goals of helping public servants,” Sell said. “It’s just a natural fit.”
Adam Knapp is Editor-in-Chief of the Andover American. He can be reached at (316) 390-0681.