Desmoines Carlson: Cyclists plan benefit for family of firefighter who loved Iowa By JOHN CARLSON Register Columnist 12/16/2001 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- At first, Chris Charron and his bicycle-riding pals talked about getting together in a bar where folks could drop a few dollars in a fish bowl. It would be a way to honor a friend, a New York firefighter who lost his life at the World Trade Center - and to raise some cash for his children. Things have grown a bit since that first conversation, so forget the fish bowl. The bar they were talking about has become a hall big enough for 3,000 people. And raising a few dollars? Well, they're looking at thousands of dollars. Most likely tens of thousands. These bicyclists may just be putting together the biggest one-day fund-raising event in Iowa since, well, Hillary Clinton came to town collecting cash for her Senate run. "Like everybody else, we felt powerless on September 11," said Charron, a RAGBRAI rider who has gotten to know some of the New York firefighters who come to Iowa every year for the bicycle ride. "This was a way to do something for one of them." It's all about John Moran, an FDNY battalion chief who went on the past 10 RAGBRAI trips, who has visited literally hundreds of Iowa cities and towns, who loved our state and died trying to save lives in the World Trade Center. How much did 42-year-old John Moran love his trips to Iowa? His brother, Mike, also a New York firefighter, stood before a packed New York church not long ago and talked about John riding his bicycle through the hills of Iowa. "I read the eulogy Mike gave for John," Charron said. "It about broke my heart." So there's going to be an Iowa benefit for John's widow, Kim, and their young sons, Ryan and Dylan. A tribute, yes. And a party. A very big party. It'll run from 5 p.m. until midnight Jan. 19 at the 7 Flags Event Center, 2100 N.W. 100th St. in Clive. Disc jockey Greg Schneck will play music for an hour and a half, and later, Grease Fire Horns, a central Iowa band, will play. They'll have pizza, burgers, beer and pop. And some marvelous shirts will be on sale that night. They feature a cartoon drawn by The Des Moines Register's Brian Duffy - that haunting image of firefighters climbing a ladder through the clouds and into heaven. It's the best cartoon I saw anywhere in the first days after Sept. 11. The T-shirts cost $10. Long-sleeved shirts will sell for $15. Advance tickets for the benefit cost $20, or they're $25 at the door. Checks can be mailed to the Moran Family Trust at 1105 Maple St., West Des Moines, IA 50265. Tickets and shirts can be ordered online at Nearly everything, including the hall, has been donated, and every nickel raised will go to the Morans. This has the potential to send some serious money to the family, who are hearing a lot from Iowans. Just this weekend, $25,000 raised by the Ankeny Fire Department was to be given to them. The Jan. 19 benefit has a good chance of doubling that amount. Or better. "Just knowing the atmosphere during RAGBRAI, this will be a way to celebrate the firefighters" lives," said Charron. "We didn't want to wait until the ride in July. We want to do it now." It'll be a great party, all right. Charron and fellow organizers Ed Veak, Scott Sumpter, Lynn Scott, John McCannon, Jim Lane, Dan Lamb, Rich Ketcham and Tom Pohl are expecting 1,000 RAGBRAI riders. And the Des Moines firefighters" union is working to see that maybe 1,000 firefighters from around Iowa are there. That leaves room for 1,000 more people. "We're just some big lugs in Iowa who want to do something to help," Charron said. "Maybe we can make sure John's kids have the money to go to college." Rarely have some big lugs done so much. Iowans no doubt watched the horror that awful Tuesday in September and tried to think if they knew anybody there. This is a reminder that Chief Moran and his bicycle-riding FDNY pals visited probably 300 Iowa towns over the past decade. Maybe you didn't know any of the 343 firefighters who died that day. But one of them, a man named John Moran, knew and liked you. Here's a way for all of us to help his kids.