IL COPS stop in Lincoln delivering gestures of appreciation to the Lincoln Rural Fire and Eminence Church

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[July 24, 2019] 


On Friday members of the Illinois Concerns of Police Survivors bicycle caravan rolled into town for a lunch break at the Lincoln Rural Fire Protection District Station. This is the fifteenth year for the annual bike ride and the fourth year it has stopped at the LRFD.

The tour had previously made stops for water and a short rest at the Logan County Safety Complex, then rode on to Atlanta to the firehouse there for lunch provided by Eminence Church of rural Atlanta. In 2016 the group made a change.

Typically they had ridden a route up Route 66 to Chicago. They make stops to honor specific fallen heroes and in 2016 the group veered from their typical route for a stop in the Tremont area. Because of this change, they needed to find a new location to have that noontime meal.

The Lincoln Rural Fire Department answered the need and since then has become a regular stop for the group at noon time. The Eminence Church was also happy to help by delivering food to Lincoln instead of Atlanta.

On Friday tables were set up and a food line established in the garage area of the station, and with the high heat index large fans were placed around the room to keep the air moving for a more comfortable environment.

The bikers came into town almost on time, just a little past 11:30 a.m. Riding into the station parking lot under the large LRFD American flag, the bikers were greeted by a number of folks there to just show support and appreciation for all police officers.

This year the group has new jerseys for on the road. At the beginning of the meal, local police officer and IL COPS rider Maurice (Moe) Johnson talked about the change in rider uniforms. He noted that the blue and gray jerseys had been retired. With that, a number of the old shirts were mounted and framed and presented to the various people along the route from Alton to Chicago who have shown their support for the annual ride.

Johnson first presented a shirt to LRFD Chief Chris Buse. He noted that after that first year, Buse has been quick to speak up for holding the lunch in the next year. He said that early in the year, Buse will contact him and invite the group to come back, a gesture that is greatly appreciated by the IL COPS group.

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The second shirt of the day was given to Pastor LC Sutton of Eminence Church. It is a story that is often repeated about the church when a few years ago the leader of the group reached out to Sutton and asked if the church would be willing to provide sandwiches and cold drinks to the group.

The church people, who have a reputation for honoring our countries hero’s and also for cooking really good food, said they would be happy to help, but no one on their watch was going to be sent down the road with a cold sandwich. Each year the church prepares a carb-loaded pasta dish with a cold salad, chilled fruit and plenty of cold beverages. All of which is dished up and enjoyed with great appreciation by the group.

This year, the weather was ridiculously hot for the riders. According to a member of the escort team though it might not have been as bad as some would imagine, especially on Friday. The group added an extra water stop to their morning schedule to help out. The volunteer noted that staying hydrated is very important for the riders. In addition, he noted that the wind was coming in from the south, pushing the bikers. The support group volunteer noted that in the past he too has been a rider and said that it was much better to ride in 100-degree heat with the wind to your back than to ride into wind on a 70 degree day.

The group travels from Alton to Chicago in four legs. The first day they left Alton and made their overnight stop in Springfield. On Friday they planned to stop for the night in Normal. Saturday would be the longest day as the group would ride close to 100 miles from Normal to Romeoville. Then the ride would end on Sunday as the group rode into Chicago mid-day. There they participate in a special closing ceremony and disperse until next year.

This group of bike riders travel the route each year raising awareness and money for their programs. The Illinois Concerns of Police Survivors offer emotional support to families of fallen officers, provide youth camps for survivor children and do what they can in general to help families through a tragic time in their lives when an officer dies in the line of duty.

The group also honors those fallen with memorial services held during their annual rides. In 2015, the group participated in the dedication of the Williamsville overpass to Officer Bernard Skeeters, an Illinois State Trooper who was killed in the line of duty.

In 2017, Officer Johnson led the pack into the LRFD parking lot and was met with a banner telling the group that Officer Johnson had been named as the 2016-17 Officer of the year by the Lincoln Police Department. As the group gathered for lunch, Lincoln Police Chief Paul Adams presented Johnson with his medal and the plaque that bore his name along with past LPD Officers of the Year.

Johnson was given the award as the result of the part he played in assisting a young Lincoln family when the husband was having a heart attack in the middle of the night. Johnson was first on the scene, soon accompanied by other Lincoln PD and together they worked to do CPR and look after the family in the traumatic time. The young father and husband survived and was transported to the hospital where he was treated. After recovery, the entire family came to a Lincoln City Council meeting to publicly thank Johnson and the other officers, Robert Sherren, Shawn Pettit and Ryan Sullivan for their lifesaving assistance.

That same year, the Lincoln lunch stop served as the memorial tribute service for Randolph County Police Officer James Brockmeyer of the Chester PD who lost his life during a criminal pursuit.

Anyone wishing to donate to or learn more about the Illinois Concerns of Police Survivors may visit their website for more details.

[Nila Smith]

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