Thursday, 12 March 2020 10:54

Peddling for a Purpose

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Two police officers from the Saratoga Police Department will bike from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. to honor officers lost in the line of duty.

Officer Angela McGovern and Officer Caitlin Freshwater will bike an average of 280 miles for the Police Unity Tour. The tour started in 1997 to bring public awareness of law enforcement officers fallen during the line of duty and to honor their sacrifices.

“The purpose of the ride is to raise awareness for officers who have died in the line of duty and to also raise funding for the National Law Enforcement (NLE) memorial and the [NLE] museum,” McGovern said

This will be the third year McGovern will participate in the tour. She will bike to honor NYC detective Brian Simonsen, who was shot and killed last year. Freshwater is biking for her first year in memory of Sgt. James Carter, who was killed in 1978 by a drunken driver in Massachusetts.

“It’s a good experience,” McGovern said. “It’s a good challenge for me but it’s a good refresher every year of why I take this job because it can get overwhelming or you can be like ‘why am I doing this’ but it’s just a good reset button.”

McGovern discovered the tour when she started attending police week five years ago. Duringpoliceweek, she met with officers who had participated in the tour and knew she wanted to try it herself. She signed up for the tour three years ago when she worked for the City of Troy Police Department.

“It’s nice to have a thing for just us,” McGovern said.

Throughout the tour, bikers will stop along the way for breaks and for small ceremonies. McGovern said they have a motorcade escort and a supporter crew who goes ahead of the riders. The supporter crew helps by checking in the rider’s bags to the hotel for the night and by offering snacks and meals during breaks.

“We do a lot of ceremonies too. We ride by some places where officers have died or by some police stations or parks with memorials in them so we’ll stop at those along the way and do little ceremonies,” McGovern said.

In order to be a rider, McGovern said they have to be active or retired law enforcement or immediate family of a fallen officer in the line of duty.

“A lot of times we’re riding with survivors which is pretty cool,” McGovern said.

The tour will begin on May 9 and go until the 12, which McGovern said are always the dates no matter what day they fall on. She said May 13 is the kickoff for police week so all bikers have to be in Washington D.C. to start police week off with a candlelight vigil.

The vigil, which McGovern said is one of her favorite parts of police week, is a ceremony that gathers the family of fallen officers. Everyone is escorted to the National Mall and when night falls, the whole crowd lights candles.

“One person lights it and then you pass it and you just see the whole mall light up. It’s really moving and awesome to see... that’s my favorite,” McGovern said.

Police week is filled with events such as a 5k run, a parade with vintage police cars and an area called tent city where vendors set up with a bar and can enjoy live music. According to the Unity Police Tour website, the tour started with 18 riders and has since grown into nine chapters consisting of roughly 2500 members nationwide.

McGovern and Freshwater had to raise a minimum of $2000 or they get booted from the tour because it’s so popular. McGovern said registration opens early fall and within the first day there is a waitlist.

McGovern said donations could be made by check or online until April 1. They are also going to host a fundraiser on March 28 from 12-3 p.m. at Kings Tavern on Union Ave, Saratoga Springs.

“That’s the best way because the site doesn’t tell us who donates and it’s hard, I want to be able to thank everyone so the best way is to come to the fundraiser,” McGovern said.

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