The 13th annual Ride for the Fallen held in honor and memory of fallen Texas law enforcement officers has never reached the 500 participant mark, but on Saturday organizers think the 2014 run might just eclipse that number.
The ride started in 2002 after employees with the Peace Officers Memorial Foundation (POMF) sought new ways to fund-raise and help maintain a monument erected in 1999 at the state capitol in Austin and continue a popular memorial service that is held every odd year when the state legislature is in session. That first year 100 motorcyclists came out in support and the average in recent years is 350 to 400.
"It is building up fast this year," said Carol Whitfield, a benefit trust coordinator with the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) and organizer of the ride. "We may just hit that 500 mark this time."
Whitfield said it's hoped that $10,000 is raised from this year's ride which goes towards monument maintenance as well as college scholarships, support for surviving families of fallen officers and maintaining a disaster relief team. Additionally, monies also help support research efforts to find and honor all fallen Texas police officers who, throughout history, made the ultimate sacrifice.
Last year, 39 names were etched on the wall and of those 25 had died in the previous two years. Fourteen others were uncovered from historical records. This year 15 names will be read at the tribute ceremony and those names will be etched on the wall in next year's full memorial service.
Bikers from all over Texas and some from other states ride into Austin to participate in the Ride for the Fallen, which MotoSport is sponsoring. Whitfield said the ride is definitely growing as she's been contacted by a number of people in recent months wishing to be involved. In addition, CLEAT gets the word out to local motorcycle clubs and groups, uses social media and various online promotions months in advance.
"We are happy with the turnout and are able to keep up with growth," Whitfield said. "We will always set our sights for more participation and to get the word out about the foundation."
This year's route is a bit different from past rides in that the escorted route is 20 miles long rather than 12 as the ride's start point is from Central Texas Harley-Davidson in North Austin. Since there is no memorial service this year a brief tribute at the monument is held before riders embark on their own rides throughout the nearby hill country.
Written By: AndrewT