COLORADO SPRINGS — For the third year in a row, I'm taking part in SHIELD616's Border to Border Ride. 2021 is the 6th year of the event helping to support the organization's mission to help first responders by supplying protective gear to men and women in the line of fire.
The route is a bit different this year as the crew will head from the Utah border to the Kansas border, stopping along the way to show their support for local first responders. We'll stop in Colorado Springs on Saturday, September 11 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks which claimed the lives of 2,977 people, including 343 New York City firefighters, 23 New York City police officers, and 37 officers of the Port Authority.
On Saturday, SCHEELS Colorado Springs will present the donation of 55 Ballistic Vests to will be presented to the 10 agencies. Each ballistic vest costs $2,400.
A donation of $25 can make a difference in the lives of these brave personnel.
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All week long on News5 at 6 p.m., we'll bring you the stories of how your donation can help save lives. You'll hear from those in the line of fire explain how protective gear has saved their lives.
The ride continues to grow, and this year's team of riders will consist of more first responders than ever.
Fundraising from this ride will go toward 10 Colorado agencies, including the Boulder police department in the aftermath of the King Soopers active shooter incident, in which Officer Eric Talley was lost when he confronted the shooter.
- Colorado Parks and Wildlife
- Monument Police Department
- Donald Wescott Fire Department
- Peyton Fire Protection District
- Palmer Lake Fire Department
- Woodland Park Police Department
- Jefferson County Sheriff's Office
- Lakewood Police Department
- Denver Police Department
- Boulder Police Department
In 2020, KOAA5 and SHIELD616 received generous donations from you in the amount of $150,000 during our virtual event. That total includes our goal of $48,500 to equip each member of the Black Forest Fire and Rescue with their own set of protective equipment.
During that event, the crew stopped in Steamboat Springs to present full protective kits to the police department, again thanks to donations from the community.
Why would anyone want to ride a bicycle across the state of Colorado? As a cyclist, sure it's a challenge, but why continue to do it year after year?
The answer for the SHIELD616 Border to Border ride is that it's for a good cause and there is also emotional/mental health benefits for the first responders, and really everyone involved with the ride.
The name of the organization comes from the New Testament scripture of Ephesians 6:16 in which the Apostle Paul instructs Christians to put on a shield of faith.
in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Founder and President Jake Skifstad, a former Colorado Springs Police officer, knows the most difficult challenges of being a first responder. Jake says, “We as law enforcement, we are expected to protect you from whatever threat there may be. If it involves a rifle, we don't have protection against that.”
In December of 2007, as a member of CSPD, Jake Skifstad says he clearly remembers the call of an active shooter at New Life Church. “You always think worst-case scenario. It's a call that you don't want to see and you know you have to get in there and do your job as fast as you can to help prevent any more casualties. It's just something that you will stick with you for the rest of your life if you have to experience it.”
Fast forward to November of 2015 when as a member of the CSPD Swat Team on Black Friday, his pager went off for an active shooter situation, the second in two months. “When I got that page I just remember reading it and thinking, ‘You've got to be kidding me, not again.’ It was one of the worst days of my career. When you strip away that uniform, the person behind that badge is a human being just like everybody else. We just train ourselves to go against the human nature of fleeing from danger, to turn around and run towards danger.”
SHIELD616 began with a focus on law enforcement in southern Colorado. “When we started SHIELD616 we were focusing right here in Colorado Springs on my brothers and sisters in blue and I wanted to make sure that they had the best gear available to them.”
The efforts grew to include firefighters and paramedics. Jake says, “We have had a couple of very close calls for the Colorado Springs Fire Department. Thankfully, no firefighters were hit, but they were extremely close to being hit, and they were absolutely in the hot zone. We want to make sure that they're also protected.”
Cary Katalin, co-organizer of the ride explains, “I was a Chaplain with the Colorado Springs Police Department for ten years. I know the effect that some of the calls had on me.”
Cary was volunteering with the department a few times a month. “I can only imagine how the officers were impacted with what they deal with every day.” His wife Katie noticed the toll it was taking on Cary too. Katie says, “He started to suffer a little bit of PTSD, and he wasn't willing to talk to anybody about that,”
Cary found his mental health first aid on 2 wheels. Katie says, “He liked to ride his bike and he likes to spend time with the officers and so he started the ride to create an escape for them, to get away from the things that they see day-to-day”
Cary says, “The one thing that would clear my mind was to be able to get out on my bike and ride. I thought if we can get other officers out there doing that- how awesome would that be? And then to have the purpose of the SHIELD616 was perfect.”
Jake Skifstad clearly remembers, “He came up to me and said, ‘I have an idea for a fundraiser.’ I said, ‘great what are your thoughts?’ And he said, ‘I'd like to ride across the state of Colorado.’ I stopped him and said, ‘Wait a minute people can do that?’”
Seven riders including Cary rode from the Wyoming border to the New Mexico border in 2015. The team has grown every year because of the cause it supports, and the unity it builds on the team.
Katie has ridden with Cary every year and has watched the ride grow in many different ways. Katie says, “When you talk to the new guys, they'll say things like, ‘This was the best thing I could have done, this was awesome.’ They have such positive things to say about it.”
To learn more about how SHIELD616 has helped our first responders, click here see the stories throughout the years as they've used your donations for this noble cause.