Ride raises aid for fallen officers’ families
By LISA RATHKE
The Associated Press | June 15,2013
Toby Talbot / AP Photos
Members of law enforcement listen to a ceremony for fallen officers Friday in Montpelier. From left, Deputy Sheriff Marc Poulin, Sheriff Sam Hill and Capitol Police Officer Dale Manning.
MONTPELIER — About 300 motorcyclists are expected to join a ride from Rutland to St. Albans today in a third annual charity ride named after Vermont State Police Trooper Michael Johnson, who was killed in the line of duty 10 years ago, to raise money for the families of fallen officers. At the same time, the Funds for Fallen Officers Walk also takes place in St. Albans.
Organizers hope the two events will raise about $40,000 for the children left behind by officers who have died in the line of duty.
Each year the country loses 140 to 160 law enforcement officers, said former police officer Harry Herington, of Olathe, Kan., who rode his motorcycle to Montpelier as part of his memorial ride to every capital in the country to raise awareness about the issue and money for the families.
“When we lose an officer, we’re leaving behind a spouse, oftentimes children, a mother, a father, leaving behind grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, neighbors and their fellow officers who are just as close to family members to them. Too often we tend to forget that wasn’t a badge that fell, that was a person, that was a loved one. That was somebody that was respected,” he said.
It’s been 10 years since Johnson was fatally struck on Father’s Day by a vehicle driven by a suspect who had swerved to avoid spike strips that Johnson placed across the interstate. Johnson’s sister, Patti Wolff, of Hyde Park, said she still thinks of him and misses him every day.
Nine years ago she attended her first retreat held by the Concerns of Police Survivors, or COPS, and met other siblings who had suffered similar losses.
“The final gift my brother Michael gave me was the amazing group of friends that I now have through COPS. In the nine years since I started attending the retreat, I now have lifelong friends,” she said.
She said she prays every day that no one will have to go through the pain that her and other families have endured.
“Concerns of Police Survivors has been instrumental in my healing,” she said.
A ceremony was held Friday at the Statehouse in Montpelier that included family members of fallen Vermont officers.
Theevent also featured Herington’s custom Ride4Cops memorial motorcycle and a core group of motorcyclists.