Memorial bike ride helps Concord
officers remember fallen comrades

By John Jackson on February 10, 2014

Unity Ride_for website

Five members of the  Concord PD will join 1,500 other officers from around the country in a 300-mile ride to remember and honor fellow officers who have died in the line of duty. The ride raises funds to support the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, DC.  From left, Ollie Sansen, Adam Hart, Krista Sansen, Kenny Trimble and Amy Hendricks. (Photo by Rochellezphotography.com)

This spring, six officers from the Concord Police Department will embark on more than an ordinary bike trek; they’ll participate in an annual ritual to show respect to more than 19,000 of their fellow officers nationwide who have fallen in the line of duty.

“I couldn’t imagine what it would be like [to lose a partner],” says Officer Ollie Sansen. “This helps people to move on to the next chapter.”

On May 10, he along with Officers Kenny Trimble, Adam Hart, Krista Sansen, Mike Roberts and Amy Hendriks will join nearly 1,500 law enforcement officers from around the country in the 18th annual Police Unity Tour, an extensive bicycle ride totaling 300 miles and four days. The riders will begin in New Jersey and travel through Philadelphia and Baltimore, before finishing in an emotional ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“People are able to lean on each other for support,” Sansen says. “I’ve seen the healing process take place [during the ride].”

He says he and his fellow officers are doing the trek to raise awareness for fallen officers and to help raise money for the Memorial, a monument dedicated to police officers killed in the line of duty, says Sansen.

Moving ceremony at Memorial

Two curved marble walls are at the centerpiece of the Memorial, 304-feet long and hold the name inscriptions of the thousands of men and women who have died in the line of duty. The walls are continuously changing, as names are added each year.

The tour ends at a moving candlelight ceremony at the Memorial, when the names of each officer who died in 2013 will be read aloud and their name will be added to the Memorial in front of 50,000 onlookers.

Just a few years ago, the $1.5 million proceeds from the Police Unity Tour went directly to restoring the walls of the monument and refinishing the names to “a beautiful state,” Sansen says.

Although the Unity Tour began with a group of four guys in New Jersey, it has become a national and international draw for a large number of police officers, many of them on the West Coast. Officer Hart first got involved in the ride five years ago and brought in Sansen a year later, seeing it as a way to personally honor those they have lost in their profession.

“This is a way for me to show gratitude to the officers who have gone ahead of me and given their lives in the line of duty,” says Hart. “It helps me to know that I’m honoring them and the sacrifice that they and their families have made. It’s not just about them, it’s also about their families and their loss.

“It really helps me to feel better about my profession and know that I’m doing something to honor those people who have made such a great sacrifice,” Hart says.

Tough training

To prepare for the tough 300-mile ride, each of the officers begins some type of training months in advance to make sure they are ready for four long days on the bike.

“On an average day when we ride out there, we’ll be in the seat upwards of 8-10 hours,” says Krista Sansen. “And if you’re smart you’ll start training six months ahead of time.”

Several of the officers use their training time biking Mount Diablo together. They also vary between what Sansen called “long and flat” and “short and steep.” The focus is being prepared for the cardio demand and being in the seat for a long period of time, she says. Additionally, each rider is required to complete a 50-mile training ride before the tour.

But the work is worth it, the officers who’ve made the trek say. The riders typically receive a “hero’s welcome” in several of the communities they ride through on the tour.

“There’s one guy in particular, when we’re riding through Jersey, who comes out with his bagpipes and he’ll serenade us as we’re riding by,” says Krista Sansen. “Those kinds of things make it really incredible.”

Hart says that in some of the communities they ride through, some of the schools will actually let their students out and come out to the street to cheer the riders on and hold up signs. “We’ll get the occasional fly-by from a police helicopter, which is always inspirational when you’re grueling out a hundred mile day,” he says.

Although the ride raises funds for the Memorial, each officer is driven by a deep appreciation for their comrades and a passion for honoring them, they say.

“It’s kind of a calling,” says Krista Sansen. “Once you do it, it’s hard to not do it again. Just realizing that it could be any one of us at anytime, it’s good to get out there and remember.”

To donate to the Police Unity Tour, please contact the Concord Police Department, (925) 671-3220.

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