PLATTSBURGH — Law enforcement from the North Country will be well-represented in this year’s annual Tour de Force, a national fundraiser to support families of officers who lost their lives while on duty.
Adirondack Garda, a dozen local officers representing several agencies across the region, will participate in the 11th Tour de Force cycling event, which begins Sept. 8 in Boston and concludes on Sept. 11 at Ground Zero in New York City.
“It’s the most awesome experience I’ve ever had riding in a (cycling) tour,” said retired New York State Trooper Bob Cronin, who has participated in the three previous events and will return with Adirondack Garda this September.
“We all share the same common good: to never forget our brothers in arms.”
More than 200 cyclists from across the nation, Canada and abroad gather for the Tour de Force, each participant dedicated to raising a minimum of $1,000, to be donated to the families of police officers killed in the line of duty.
“It is a brotherhood,” said Bob Light, a member of the Plattsburgh State University Police. “It’s our way of taking care of each other.”
Bob Richards, a 25-year U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol veteran, participated in his first Tour de Force last year, when the event traveled through Washington, D.C.
“When I looked behind me at the sea of cops (all wearing the same Tour de Force riding jerseys), that was a sight I’ll never forget,” he said.
Cronin was the original representative from the North Country when he volunteered to ride with a friend who had lost two members of his unit in the line of duty. The local collection has grown yearly as more officers from the area were drawn to the ride.
“After last year’s ride, we were determined to have the largest showing of people from the North Country (in 2012),” said Richard Kozak, who was stationed at Plattsburgh Air Force Base and settled locally to work in law enforcement.
Kozak actually began cycling 25 years ago while in the Air Force.
“I had to have something to do as I got older,” said Kozak, who works with Richards. “Running was breaking up my body; this was a better form of exercise for me.”
Richards also turned to cycling for exercise and was able to shed 50 pounds from routine biking over the past 15 years.
Light, who is involved in a variety of charity and educational bicycle programs, chose to participate in the Tour de Force as another option to ride while helping others in need.
“It’s a great way to meet people all over the country,” said Cronin.
Cronin recently presented $5,000 checks to the families of Oneida County Deputy Sheriff Kurt Wyman and State Trooper Kevin Dobson of Erie County, both of whom were killed in the line of duty.
Joining the quartet on the Adirondack Garda are Bill Honan, Bruce Martin, Kathi Grabda, Rick Hoff, Jim McCarty, John Barry, Brian Sypek, Mike Sisko and Dan Reilly.
The team, named after the Irish name for police officer, will hold a fundraiser Aug. 24 at Bobby’s Lounge on South Catherine Street in Plattsburgh. The event begins at 5 p.m., and all proceeds will benefit the Adirondack Garda’s fundraising efforts.
Donations can also be made to the local contingent by visiting www.tourdeforceny.com and clicking the link to “Make a Donation” and choosing the rider of choice.
The 2011 Tour de Force raised more than $410,000 nationally.
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