Hero Thrill Show Thrills for 63rd Year

Host Jimmy Binns and Police Commissioner Richard Ross honored Highway Patrol Officer Patrick McDonald by inducting his mother, Patricia McDonald, as an honorary captain of the Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol. Here she is surrounded by the Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill Team. Photos by Eldon Graham

By Eldon Graham

The 63rd annual Hero Thrill Show fundraiser was a destination of excitement and remembrance at the Wells Fargo Center parking lot in South Philadelphia. Kids and the young at heart got the opportunity to be unofficial firefighters and police officers for a day, while enjoying the sights and sounds of carnival games, Boardwalk food and throw-back music from the 1970s.

The 2017 Hero Thrill Show raises funds from ticket sales and donations for the post high school educations of survivors of deceased police officers and firefighters who were killed in the line of duty.

“The Hero Thrill Show has been a proud tradition in our community for 63 years,” said Mayor Jim Kenney, son of a city firefighter. “The show has paved the way for educational opportunities, allowing police and fire department families to attend trade schools, colleges and universities. The Hero Thrill Show is also a way to show our appreciation to first responders by sharing in a fun day with community.”

The Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill Team made a roaring grand entrance into Lot H to give a sneak preview of its mesmerizing daredevil stunts that they performed. The police motorcade joined an impressive display of fire engines from units citywide.

The Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill Team performing spectacular feats in parking lot H of the Wells Fargo Center.

Host and President/CEO of Hero Thrill Show Inc., James “Jimmy” Binns, brought another show to a rousing success.  The attorney, Darby Township Highway Patrol Officer, Motorcycle Drill Instructor and patron of police and fire personnel led an all-star lineup in a special day of tribute and tradition

The Hero Thrill Show marked the solemn anniversary of Highway Patrol Officer Patrick McDonald death exactly 9 years ago to the day, September 23rd, 2008. The Police Highway Patrol Motorcycle Team — led by its commander Capt. John “Jack” Fleming and former Police Officer Rick Bowes paid tribute to McDonald’s legacy and to his family. Bowes shot McDonald’s fleeing assailant in the 2008 incident.

During the event the officers and the Police Highway Patrol Motorcycle Team led McDonald’s mother, along with other survivors of police slayings, to the center of Parking Lot H to present her with ceremonial flowers and to make her the honorary captain of the Motorcycle Team with their “fire in hole” ritual.

McDonald, a Northeast Philly resident, died in 2008 after he was fatally shot in North Philadelphia, following a routine traffic stop and an ensuing police chase. McDonald, an eight-year veteran of the force, was single and is survived by his mother, Patricia (“Patsy”) and father, Lawrence and his sister, Megan.

Hero Thrill Show organizer Binns said that all the activities recognize the heroism of our firefighters and police officers who sacrificed their lives for their communities. As a patron of law enforcement, Binns is founder of the Hero Cop Plaque and Hero Firefighters Plague programs throughout the Delaware Valley as well as various initiatives to secure funding for police equipment and vehicles in the Delaware Valley.

“This is truly a tribute to the legacy of our fallen police officers and firefighters who place themselves in harm’s way to protect the citizens of Philadelphia every day,” Binns said. “The Hero Thrill Show gives us a chance to honor their memory and extend our gratitude to the families of those brave men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty. We do this each year by raising money to fund the college educations of families of our law-enforcement and firefighting heroes. Opportunities to connect the police and fire departments to the community — while supporting the families of those dedicated individuals who served us bravely — are needed today more than ever.”

The students are furthering their educations through the assistance of full funding at mostly local colleges, universities and trade schools. Thousands of dollars have been raised for the educations of more than 20 students from police and fire department families since the Hero Thrill Show was incorporated under Binns’ leadership in 2006.

The event began in a spectacular fashion, with the motorcycle procession of Hero Thrill Show participants led by the heralded Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill Team. The drill team only performs at this show once a year. To help start the event City Representative Sheila Hess spoke on the Mayor’s behalf, who arrived later in the afternoon.

“I remember from the time I was young child, how the Hero Thrill Show was such a major spectacle in our community when it came to South Philly,” said Hess. “1 can recall when it was held at the old JFK Stadium. The daredevil police motorcycles use to come thundering down the middle aisles that separated those rickety old bleacher benches. For an 11 year old, it was the best experience of sights and sounds imaginable.”

Sheriff Jewell Williams and Deputy Chief at Office of the Sheriff City and County of Philadelphia Paris Washington huddle up with Philadlephia Eagles Mascot, Swoop, at the Hero Thrill Show.

City officials from the law-enforcement and firefighting communities, as well as sports cheerleaders and mascots, took part in the festivities.

Joining Binns, and City Representative Hess were: Grand Marshal Bob Pantano, Fire Commissioner Adam Theil; Police Commissioner Richard Ross; Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams; Thrill Show Grand Marshal and Boxing announcer Nino DelBuono; youth sports organizer and radio host Sonny Hill; Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill Team; Police K-9 unit; Police Mounted Unit; Philadelphia Police & Fire Color Guards, and local sports mascots, the Phillie Phanatic and Swoop.

Kids got the opportunity to learn about the various functions of Homeland Security/ S.W.AT and engage with equipment, displays of crime-fighting equipment by the Aviation Unit, Bomb Squad, and the Crime Scene Investigation Unit, the Marine Unit, Firearms Instructors, Police Academy and S.W.A.T unit and about the young Fire Explorers (cadets in training).

Fans sat at the wheel of police-rescue helicopters, met fire personnel, got to try on gear and take front-seat rides on fire engines. Audiences were impressed by performances showcasing fire apparatus and safety displays and demonstrations by the Philadelphia Fire Department’s Special Operations Units and a live fire-suppression exhibition.

In addition, Firefighters performed in the “Firefighter Challenge,” a rescue exercise testing the strength and skills including reclining down ropes, moving through burning objects.

Ryder Simms, age 3, participated in the activities in a police uniform in his motorized mini police car. Simms, who has learning challenges, was adopted as an honorary Philadelphia police officer by Police Commissioner Ross recently. Simms greeted and reunited with the commissioner at the annual Thrill Show Pep Rally in Center City last week.

Simms is shy, but lights up when he comes in contact with the police, He has gained confidence “to conquer the world,” from his interactions with the law-enforcement community, said his mother Alana. Young Simms’ grandmother, Cherie, gave him the car six months ago. He is on duty nonstop and likes playing in his yard in Swarthmore proudly wearing his uniform and “arresting people,” his mother notes.

In the future, the public’s ongoing financial support is encouraged and needed to ensure the stability and success of this worthwhile program, which has served dozens of families of police and fire heroes killed in the line of duty. Some of the fallen police and fire personnel’s children have followed in their parent’s footsteps and joined the ranks of local law enforcement. With Jimmy Binn’s leadership, the years ahead promise to be bigger and better.

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