SPRINGFIELD TWP. Kindergarten students at Spring Hill and Young Elementary Schools in Springfield Township went outside April 20 for their weekly reading time with Community Policing Officer Dan Rafferty and Volunteer Auxiliary Springfield Police (VASP) Coordinator Linda Lohr.
Every week the officers read to the students, but on that day, the students gathered outside to learn about Rafferty's upcoming 300-mile bicycle ride to Washington, D.C. He brought his bike and equipment for the kids to see and touch.
The ride, which began Tueday and ends Sunday honors police officers across the country that have fallen in the line of duty.
Rafferty will ride the 300 miles on his bicycle from Reading, Pa., to Washington, D.C. The bikers travel 100 miles a day, taking back roads through Pennsylvania, Maryland and into D.C. Along the way, they stop at different places where they meet survivors of fallen officers and hear their stories. Each rider wears a bracelet with a deceased officer's name on it.
Rafferty showed the students his shirt which on the front read "Law Enforcement United" and on the back the slogan "Road to Hope." Rafferty said every 54 hours an officer loses his life in the line of duty.
"What we do to honor them, is the Road to Hope," he said. "We do this to raise money for the families and the kids and for scholarships and the law enforcement memorial in Washington, D.C."
Riders from many areas eventually meet up outside of Washington and more than 500 will ride into the the nation's capital to kick off Police Week, which begins when the riders together ride into DC stopping at the WWII Memorial. This year, they are riding for those officers killed in 2016.
Students asked several questions about Rafferty's bike and why he is riding before he turned the tables on the students and asked what are the "7 Healthy Habits" would be included in riding the bike. The students said being "proactive" and "sharpening the saw." Rafferty said it is important to stay in shape and be healthy and pointed out the pin he wears that symbolizes his passing the physical fitness requirements of being a police officer.
As students got chance to get close and look over the bike and equipment, Rafferty explained that everything on the bike is aerodynamic and has a purpose. He also talked about how he wears special shoes that lock his feet to the pedals.
If you are interested in donating to the cause, visit www.leunited.org or drop a check off at the Springfield Police Department attention: Officer Rafferty, made out to Law Enforcement United.
"I choose to do this to raise awareness and let people know it is always good to do something good for those that have given their life in the line of duty, to their communities and for their families," said Rafferty.
He said the part from last year that really meant something to him was watching the survivors ride for their loved ones, letting them know they are not forgotten.
"You listen to the stories and how they died and, for me, it gets me refocused on why I do my job," Rafferty said.