Retired Milford firefighter still on active duty of saving lives
MILFORD >> Carlos Smith retired from a long career as a city firefighter 13 years ago, but his desire to help others has stayed on active duty.
Smith, for about the 20th year, will participate in the annual Folks on Spokes ride to help fund mental health services at Bridges … A Community Support System, which serves Milford, Orange and West Haven.
It’s one of many activities Smith, 70, does for charity, although he’s matter of fact about it all and doesn’t like to talk much about himself.
“You can’t be a firefighter unless you’re willing to help people,” he said, noting that firefighters run into burning buildings while others run out.
Smith will join hundreds of cyclists, runners and walkers Sept. 18 who will descend on Fowler Field downtown for the annual Folks on Spokes — Folks on Foot Ride, Run, Walk.
Proceeds go directly to help thousands of children, families, teens, young adults and adults who need psychiatric, behavioral health, substance abuse and primary care services, Bridges officials said.
“Bridges relies on proceeds from this event to help cover the cost of providing services to thousands of low-income individuals and families in our area,” said Barbara DiMauro, Bridges’ president and CEO. “We are very grateful for the continued support.”
Smith said he’s always stayed in good physical shape because of the job, and now that he’s retired he has expanded his longtime repertoire of exercising for charity events.
Aside from doing the Folks on Spokes fundraiser all these years, Smith is now a regular in Bike New York, a nonprofit that promotes and encourages bicycling and bicycle safety, he runs in about six charity races annually and plays about four charity golf tournaments. The numbers vary each year.
He also has remained active for more than 40 years in the Fire Department’s annual Toys for Tots Drive — a huge event here that provides hundreds of needy children with gifts their parents choose after firefighters get the donations collected and organized.
Smith also helps to man a canteen to help hydrate firefighters at fire scenes in Milford and area towns that provide mutual assistance.
“I don’t know how I ever found time to work,” he said, noting he misses everything about the job.
“Milford’s been good to me.”
The Folks on Spokes route is a pleasure, he said, because there is so much shoreline on ► to the left of ◄ the 20-mile bicycle route he’ll take again this year.
Although there are prizes for the top finishers, Smith said, “It’s not a race, it’s a scenic ride along the shoreline and it’s beautiful.”
The bicycle tour allows riders to choose route distances of 5, 10, 20, 40, 50 or 66 miles.
The routes are marked with blue and white FOS signs and include several rest stops with water, fruit and energy bars.
Tony’s Bikes & Sports will help cyclists with repairs and Subway Restaurants will provide the lunch sandwiches.
Bridges raises money through the event on entry fees — which are kept low — and individuals collecting pledges, which is optional.
Smith doesn’t fundraise for the event beyond his registration fee, but Marcy Hotchkiss, Bridges’ director of fund development and communications, said he’s one of those with a special place because he’s “loyal and consistent.”
Smith got started with the event when he was taking a spinning class and “a bunch of us said, ‘Let’s do a charity event.’”
“We need more people like Carlos to get involved,” Hotchkiss said.
Hotchkiss said the event attracts serious bicyclists and runners, and those who just do it for fun, including children.
“It is good exercise and we know good exercise is important for mental health,” Hotchkiss said.
Chairwoman Rachel Merva said the event of about 25 years has become a community tradition.
“We strive to keep the registration fees affordable … so that anyone who wants to take part and show their support for friends and family who are experiencing the challenges of mental illness or addiction, can do so.”
However, she said, fundraising is important and awards will be given to top fundraisers.
Registration and check-in begin at 7:30 a.m. Registration fees are $40 for adult cyclists and $30 for 5K runners or walkers. Children under 12 accompanied by an adult are $10 for both events.
Day of event registration fees are $45 and $35 for adults. Online registration and more information are available at http://folksonspokes.bridgesct.org.
For more information, to volunteer or sponsor call Hotchkiss at 203-878-6365, ext. 359, or email her at email@example.com.