Dianne Frances D. Powell
TERRE HAUTE —
The familiar flashing blue and red lights shone from police cars and motorcycles along Indiana 63 on Sunday evening as they escorted 14 cyclists completing day 7 of an annual 13-day ride.
Cops Cycling for Survivors — now in its 11th year — is a 13-day, 1,000-mile bicycle tour of Indiana.
The cyclists — Indiana law enforcement officers, their families and friends — traveled along Indiana 63 from Kentland on their way to the Terre Haute Police Department before staying the night at Indiana State University’s Sandison Hall.
The group’s stop at Terre Haute comes a few days after the second anniversary of the death of Terre Haute Police Officer Brent D. Long, who was shot and killed while serving a warrant in Terre Haute’s near-north side. The ride honored Long last year.
Following the cyclists is a support truck with the pictures of the two officers being honored by the ride this year. The images of Lake County Corrections Officer Britney Meux and Indiana Department of Corrections Officer Timothy Betts were printed above the words, “Riding to Remember.” Also on the truck are handwritten messages from the people the group met along the way.
According to a release, Meux was killed instantly after being struck in a hit and run crash while on a training run around the perimeter of the Lake County Jail. Three co-workers were also injured in the crash.
The U.S. Marine Corps veteran is survived by her daughter, mother, father and four sisters.
Locally, wounds are still fresh with the loss of Greene County native Timothy Betts last year.
According to a release, Betts collapsed while escorting an unruly prisoner to the segregation unit after responding to a cell house incident at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. It was later determined that he suffered from a heart attack. He was 51.
Betts started his career at WVCF in 1997. He is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.
The cyclists ride with these survivors in mind, but not all the cyclists are in law enforcement.
Clay County native Jennifer Latham Simon says she is a friend of law enforcement.
“It’s one way that I could show support for all the work, dedication and sacrifice that the people of law enforcement and their families give to the community,” the assistant principal at Greencastle High School said. This was her first year participating in the ride.
“Schools rely so much on police, fire and other public servants that can come to our assistance,” Simon said.
Simon said the best part of the ride is “meeting families … and learning about their stories.” She said the most challenging part is “being away from home.”
Sgt. Tim Finnerty of the Merrillville Police Department has been participating on the ride for 10 years and “meeting people along the way is the climax” of the tour for him.
Despite the weather and physical challenges, “it’s worthwhile when you see these survivors,” he said.
Finnerty’s inspiration for completing the ride are the survivors and his fellow riders.
The tour wants to reach out to communities and survivors across the state.
Rich Crawford, president of Cops Cycling for Survivors Foundation Inc. said they are visiting communities across Indiana on their bicycle because “we want them to pause and reflect” on the lives of the officers Indiana lost “and remember the families that were left behind.”
The tour aims to raise awareness about the sacrifices made by Hoosier law enforcement families across Indiana. This year, 51 cyclists registered for the event but they are participating in different legs of the ride. There are some that are participating in the whole tour, however. Each cyclist should raise $50 each day they are participating, organizers said, and the group receives donations across the state.
The funds raised from the event are used to help surviving family members of officers killed in the line of duty. The cycling event has raised more than $300,000 for IN Concerns for Police Survivors, according to Cops Cycling for Survivors Foundation Inc.
“It’s amazing how many people support us,” Crawford said, adding that many people have donated food and shelter while they are on tour. He also said that people can donate on their website at www.copscycling4survivors.org.
The tour started July 8 with a departure ceremony at the Law Enforcement/Firefighter Memorial in Indianapolis. The ride is scheduled to conclude on July 20 at Crown Hill Cemetery.
Crawford said the group traveled 103 miles Sunday, their longest day on the tour.
But it was also an emotional day because along the way, they visited the crash site where two of their fellow riders lost their lives in 2006. Lt. Gary Dudley of the Indiana State Police and Retired Chief Gary Martin of the Lake County Police Department were both killed when a large box truck struck the rear of the support truck, pushing it into the cyclists.
“I was there when it happened,” said Stephen W. Knight of the Indianapolis Metro Police and board member of the foundation.
He said Dudley and Martin were his inspiration for completing every mile of the ride. Accompanied at the tour by his wife, Jeannie, Knight said the families of those who died “won’t be forgotten.”
Cops Cycling for Survivors plans a stop at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility — their first at the facility — Monday afternoon, before proceeding to Princeton.
“We are very honored to have been chosen by Cops Cycling for Survivors and very honored that they’re recognizing our fellow Officer Betts,” said Rich Larsen, WVCF public information officer.
Members of Betts’ family will be attending the “very special, memorable occasion,” Larsen said.
The Indiana Department of Correction Commissioner Bruce Lemmon will take part in a brief ceremony. Larsen said a $500 donation will be given to the group from the WVCF Inside Out Dads & PLUS programs.
“It’s going to be a day to remember for the facility and for his [Betts] family,” Larsen said.
Tribune-Star reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or email@example.com.