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KY Brotherhood honors Carter Conley

SALYERSVILLE – The Kentucky Brotherhood, a group of passionate individuals that ride bicycles around the state of Kentucky to honor the state’s fallen first responders and their families, have been holding annual rides throughout the state for the past several years, this time being sure to stop in Magoffin County, as the cyclists traveled from Middlesboro to Pikeville July 19 through 22.

While last year Kentucky Brotherhood (KBR) honored Carter Conley, who served as the Magoffin County Rescue Squad captain from the founding of the squad until his death due to COVID-19 in September 2021, KBR had never came through Eastern Kentucky until this year, stopping in Magoffin County on July 21 to honor Conley in person and staying overnight at the Magoffin County High School before taking off the next morning for their final destination of Pikeville.

KBR riders are made up of firefighters, police officers, EMS personnel, and family of a fallen brother or sister and they ride 400 miles each year to honor the fallen first responders throughout the state.

The group left at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, July 19 from Middlesboro, and rolled into Salyersville Friday evening.

Jordan Youdis, the public information officer for Kentucky Brotherhood, told Mortimer Media Group, “The hills have been grueling, but all of our 30ish riders have stuck through. The way we deal with it is, when you’re struggling to get up the hill, you see that jersey that’s in front of you, and you read the names of the people you are riding for, and before you know it, you’re at the top of the hill and you’re back moving.”

But the group felt strongly about making the trip to this side of the state.

“One of the reasons why we wanted to come to Eastern Kentucky – we’ve never been here – is because often times, especially in the last two years, Eastern Kentucky can feel like they’ve been forgotten,” Youdis said. “Everywhere that we’ve gone so far people have told us, ‘we can’t believe you all came all this way just for us,’ and most of us are firefighters, paramedics, or law enforcement in bigger metropolitan cities, so it’s not uncommon for us to get this type of reciprocated care and compassion, so we wanted to make sure the people in the smallest towns, with the most limited resources, know that we care and the Commonwealth of Kentucky cares. We don’t care if you’re career or volunteer, or you’re from a department with one tanker or with a department with 35 stations, it doesn’t matter. You still do the job and are willing to put your life on the line, so, we’re going to pedal each and every single one of those miles, no matter how far we have to go, to show the families of those that have fallen that we care.”

Also in attendance was Brenda Ponder, the mother of the late Trooper Cameron Ponder, who was killed in the line of duty.

“The biggest thing that has stood out on this trip is we have Trooper Cameron Ponder, who was killed in 2015, his mom is actually on our ride,” Youndis said. “She has ridden every single mile. She’s climbed every single hill, and she’s not complained once. She’s a mom, she’s a grandmother, and she’s honestly a hell of a cyclist. Some there’s been some people on our ride and it’s their first-year riding and she has pushed people who are far younger, different shape than she is, uphill. One of the exciting things this year is having her on the ride.”

Porter talked with Mortimer Media Group during their stop in Magoffin, explaining what the ride means to her.

“Cameron was only with the Kentucky State Police for nine months,” Ponder said. “He graduated January 2015, and during a traffic stop that went bad, he was fatally shot on September 13, 2015. That was just nine months into his career. Number one, I’m very humbled to be a part of this group. They’re wonderful and their moto about ‘never forget,’ that was my worst fear, that my son would be forgotten. So this is meaningful, and I’ve cried at every stop, because they’re honoring fallen heroes, and I know what these families are going through. For me, it’s an everyday journey. I hurt everyday for Cameron, but it’s a healing ride because I’m surrounded by people who are loving me up and encouraging me. I’m looking up when I’m going up them mountains you all have here in Eastern Kentucky, and I’m asking Cameron, ‘I need some help up these hills,’ and I just feel like he’s with me and he’s saying, ‘go get ‘em, Mom.’ I do it for him, but it was just a real honor to be a part of this and honor the folks that have suffered so greatly here in Eastern Kentucky.”

KBR is one of six Brotherhood groups in the U.S. dedicated to preserving the commitment of the fallen first responders.

“The biggest thing is we have people here from all over the state,” Youdis said. “We have a couple of new riders this year. We have lady from Nashville Fire that’s riding with us and it’s her first Brotherhood ride. We have a lady from Clarksville, Indiana. Typically, we have riders come from other Brotherhoods – there’s six Brotherhood rides across the country – and typically Gulf Coast Brotherhood always sends people to attend our rides, but they couldn’t this year because of schedule conflicts. We’ll send riders – me being one of them –in October to ride in the Gulf Coast Brotherhood ride, and that’s all the coastal states: Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. They’ll cross all three of those states and they do it every year, so we’ll start in Louisiana and end on the beach in the sand on North Beach, Alabama. In September, I’ll be going to represent the Kentucky Brotherhood at the Texas Brotherhood ride. That’s the first time we’ve ever sent anybody to Texas and I’m honored to be the one to go and represent the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

The Magoffin County Rescue Squad was very honored to have the Kentucky Brotherhood think enough of the Eastern Kentucky honorees, especially Captain Carter Conley, who was the subject of so many stories that evening as they stopped in Magoffin County.

“He would be as proud as a peacock because he was 100% serving other people, you know that, but bringing any recognition to what is still standing and running and was started for the sole purpose of just helping those in need, that would tickle him absolutely pink,” Robbie Conley, Carter’s son said. “These people who are honoring him and take the time to learn his name and to know the little story of this place – up and come with one tool and one van – and see what it is now. I wish he could have got to see the truck, but even though he didn’t get to see the new truck, the fact they are now honoring him by reusing his number and it’s officially the 101 truck, just pleased. And knowing it’s still standing would please him even more. The members, the people who were with him at 2 o’clock in the morning, the people who couldn’t be with us today, the people that have already passed before us, he’d be the first one to tell you bad things happen and usually come in threes. He’d also be the first one cutting up and enjoying the moment because he seen how quick it could go out and how bad it can get, but it didn’t slow him down from living one bit. If he even helped a small percentage of this county over the years, that makes me prouder than I can ever imagine. It’s just prideful, knowing he hasn’t been forgotten.”
The Kentucky Brotherhood ride also always presents a donation to the families of the fallen, money raised before the ride, with each rider tasked with raising at least $400 each, then divided up between the families, and in true Carter Conley style, Robbie turned the donation directly over to the Magoffin County Rescue Squad.

For more information about KBR and its mission, go to

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