Friends and family came together Sunday to honor Captain Bill Dowling, who survived the Southwest Inn Motel fire that claimed the lives of four Houston firefighters last May. But now, nine months later, Dowling is still working hard to overcome his severe injuries.
At the Motor Sports Ranch Houston Racetrack in Angleton, motorcyclists rode at the "Ride to the Races" benefit for Dowling. Proceeds will help with Dowling's ongoing medical expenses.
A 17-foot wide helmet was created to celebrate Dowling.
"I had to make it this big so it will make a statement up in the air," said creator Chris Lyons.
Standing lovingly at her husband's side, Jacki Dowling was amazed by the support that keeps coming for her family.
"I've never seen so many motorcycles in my life," Jacki said.
The emotion showed on Bill Dowling's face as well.
Jacki Dowling said her husband is improving every day.
"He's pumping iron and building up that muscle and putting on weight," Jacki said. "And we're starting to see improvements in his speech and swallowing and everything."
"He's an inspiration to us and we want him to know that we care, and we want him to continue to be surrounded by love," said Laura Hunter with the Houston Fire Public Affairs Department.
With all of the support, the Dowlings have high hopes for the year ahead.
"In a year from now, we feel like he's going to be walking, talking and shaking everyone's hands, thanking them," said Jacki.