Cyclists and their escorts travel 700 kilometres to memorial day in Ottawa
It was a picture-perfect day last Wednesday at the Ancaster Fairgrounds during a pit-stop for the Ride to Remember.
One spiked white cloud dotted an otherwise azure sky, the temperature was a comfortable 20C and an occasional breeze blew gently through the parking lot. More than 100 cyclists and their entourage enjoyed lunch, chatted with their colleagues and stretched some cramped muscles.
However, those unable to savour the remarkable autumn day were never far from anyone’s mind.
Staff Sgt. Joe Picton of the Niagara Regional Police was one of the first riders through Gate 1 of the fairgrounds to .
“It’s important to pay our respects to officers who have given their lives in the line of duty and raise awareness of the National Police and Peace Officers’ Memorial in Ottawa,” said Picton.
Picton has cycled in seven Rides to Remember; the first with a dedicated but lonely four riders. This year more than 120 riders cycled 104 kilometres from the police college in Aylmer to Ancaster. The ranks were expected swell as the riders passed through the Toronto area before reaching the nation’s capital to participate in the National Police and Peace Officers’ Memorial Day. Hamilton Police, along with officers from Niagara, Toronto, York, Durham, Halton and the OPP, participated in Ride to Remember.
Const. Joanne Serkeyn used the skills she has acquired through the Hamilton Police traffic unit to help escort the riders and their support crew to ensure everyone stayed safe.
Serkeyn drove an unmarked police vehicle that trailed the colourful group.
“I think it’s absolutely fabulous,” she said of the ride. “It’s a great way to raise awareness and honour those fallen in the line of duty. It’s pretty inspirational, too. There is a lot of pride. It’s a pretty honourable profession.”
Const. Brad Robinson, special events co-ordinator for Hamilton Police, said he was also moved by the sight of the cyclists as they painstakingly made their way to Ottawa.
“The vision of the cyclists, all together with their escorts, to view it all, you get a warm feeling, knowing all these people are taking time to remember,” he said.
Robinson, a 35-year veteran, and HPS colleague Sgt. Doug Jonovich drove one of several motorcycles that escorted the riders.
Jonovich, who visits the National Police and Peace Officers’ Memorial each year, said it’s important for all officers to remember their fallen comrades. In 1998, the Canadian government officially proclaimed the last Sunday of September as Police and Peace Officers’ National Memorial Day. The event gives Canadians an opportunity to express appreciation for the dedication of police and peace officers who make the ultimate sacrifice to keep communities safe.
Jonovich, who has served with Hamilton Police for 13 years, said it’s also nice to see the cross-agency co-operation that is involved in staging Ride to Remember and the reaction from the public as the convoy goes by.
“People are cheering us on and citizens are very respectful whenever the cyclists and the motorcade pass,” he said.
Sgt. Kevin Morgan of the OPP was also impressed with the support of Ontarians as they clapped and cheered at various locations along the Ride to Remember route. The first-time participant applauded the cyclists and their pedal power for doing the more difficult work.
“It’s very important and it shows support for our fellow brothers and sisters who made the ultimate sacrifice doing their jobs, and to honour them and their families.”