WATERBURY, CT – Waterbury firefighter Bill D’Occhio has been training for weeks. “The gym five days a week; a lot of spinning,” he said. He’s also been schlepping to Bethlehem where farmer and Bethlehem V.F.D. chief Jon O’Neill has allowed him to ride his off-road bikes “twice a week” on pasture land.
Next week, D’Occhio will be in California to ride motorcycles in the 2017 World Police & Fire Games. Some 10,000 athletes representing law enforcement and fire companies from 70+ countries will compete in Los Angeles in more than 60 events.
D’Occhio will take two bikes with him. “I’m driving out there. They’re going in my truck,” he said, explaining that a Husqvarna FC450 will be used for motocross (two 20-minute races) and a Husqvarna TC250 will be used for the GP event (one 45-minute cross-country race).
Practice is scheduled for Aug. 14 with the motocross on Aug. 15 and the GP on Aug. 16 at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, Calif.
D’Occhio, 44, grew up riding dirt bikes. His father, Cosimo “Doc” D’Occhio, started Doc’s Motorcycles Parts in Waterbury. His brother, Mike, now runs the business. He raced for 20 years but not as much lately. “I’ve been off and on racing. I haven’t been able to take it very seriously,” he said.
But now he’s found a reason to get more serious. D’Occhio’s tackling the games to raise money for the Arthur C. Luf Children’s Burn Camp in Union. The camp is free for kids 8 to 18 who have suffered life-altering burns and scars. “It’s important these kids get the extra emotional and self-confidence support so they can get things back to normal. The burn camp addresses those needs,” he said.
As an 18-year firefighter, D’Occhio has witnessed the impact of fire. “You see the kids and you just feel so bad for the kids,” he said, adding that it’s natural for someone like himself to reach out and help burn victims. “As firemen, it’s important to be out in the community. You’re part of the community.”
D’Occhio said his quest has the support of the Waterbury Fire Department and his union, Local 1339 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
He has also lined up a bunch of sponsors, who have pledged to donate a minimum of $100 up to $500 each, depending on how he finishes, for the camp. They include Global Machine Brokers, Durable Radiator, Atlantic Star Trailers, Roost Powersports, Labco School of Dental Assisting, The Gowans-Knight Co. and Doc’s Motorcycle Parts.
A GoFundMe site has already raised $1,500 to cover his expenses and he plans to make up the rest of his estimated $3,000 cost. All business and other donations will go to the camp and its burn victims. Anyone else who would like to donate may email D’Occhio at firstname.lastname@example.org.
D’Occhio served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1993 to 1997 and was stationed at Camp Pendleton, so he has a lot of experience riding in southern California. “I’m familiar with the type of dirt that’s out there. I think I’ll remember how it was,” he said.
He certainly has a lofty goal for the games. “If I don’t make top three, I’ll be disappointed,” said D’Occhio, who plans to record videos of his races and post them on YouTube upon his return.
(Originally published in the “Republican-American” on July 29, 2017.)