While they may not be blood related, firefighters are brothers.
Almost five years ago, Fort Walton Beach firefighter, DJ Stone, decided to host a charity motorcycle ride to raise money for his actual brother, Shannon, a fellow Fort Walton Beach firefighter. Shannon's son was born with a cleft lip and palate and DJ wanted to help the family with the mounting medical costs.
The motorcyclists made stops at area fire stations, where fellow firefighters generously donated a total of $5,000 to help with medical expenses.
"It was a huge help," Shannon said. "I was so moved by the outreach, which is not uncommon of firefighters."
As avid motorcyclists, Shannon and DJ have been riding Harleys for years. But when DJ had the idea for a charity ride, he kept his older brother in the dark.
"It was all pre-arranged," Shannon said. "He just said 'We're gonna ride and raise money.' "
As Shannon, DJ and 85 other bikers — most of them firefighters — stopped at fire stations in South Walton, Destin and Fort Walton Beach, a hat was passed around for firefighters to donate whatever they could.
Shannon was so moved by the generosity of his firefighters that he and DJ decided to continue in support of a different firefighter in need each year. In five years, they've raised almost $35,000.
"It's not huge," Shannon said of the total. "But we've been able to collect enough to help."
This year, that support will go to Danny Margagliano, a South Walton firefighter/paramedic who was involved in a diving accident in Destin that paralyzed him. While his condition may or may not be permanent, Margagliano has had to struggle with physical challenges.
"Danny was the obvious choice," Shannon said. "He's one of the best surfers on the coast... I don't know what I would do if that were me."
On May 4, The Thunder Beach Firehouse Run will visit Pensacola Beach station 13, Fort Walton Beach station 6, Destin Fire District station 10, South Walton Fire District station 2 and the last stop will be at Fire & Iron Motorcycle Club in Panama City Beach. The event is in conjunction with the annual Thunder Beach rally in PCB, which runs from April 30 to May 5.
"There we'll have a motorcycle rally with everything you can imagine," Shannon said. "There will be tons of vendors and thousands of bikers."
The Firehouse Run doesn't have a goal set when they begin their yearly ride, they rely on the generosity of the fire stations and any visitors that stop by. But whatever they make, 100 percent of the proceeds goes to the firefighter in need.
Shannon, a firefighter for 22 years, said support has to be shown to fellow fighters. For him personally, the race renews his appreciation for his local and regional fire districts.
"We look out for one another, it's one of the best aspects of the job."
There's no charge to participate in the ride and no pressure to donate.