By Brianna Kudisch
In honor of local law enforcement officers and the 20th anniversary of the National Unity Tour, Roxbury students from Eisenhower Middle School created their own version of the Unity Tour on Wed. May 25.
Originally created by Pat Montuore, a police officer from Florham Park, the Unity Tour is a nationally-recognized bike ride that starts in New Jersey and finishes at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The goal of the tour is to honor law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, and to also raise money for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
This year’s trip alone raised almost two million dollars, thanks to the 1,900 members across the country who made the bike ride.
Since the tour’s start in 1997, almost 18 million dollars has been raised in total funds.
As for the Roxbury student’s tour, they organized it themselves, with help from Eisenhower Middle School teachers Heather Roddy and Shannon Rodas.
“[The students] came up with the idea and the plan [for the Roxbury Unity Tour], and they saw it all the way through,” said Roxbury Police Chief Marc Palanchi.
The idea originated from a civics’ class assignment. The students decided to put on a miniature Unity Tour to simultaneously fulfill the assignment, while also commemorating both police officers in Roxbury and the national Unity Tour itself.
Almost 100 students participated in the tour, and 18 officers, almost half of Roxbury’s police department, joined the students for the event.
Led by Palanchi, the bike tour involved two laps around Horseshoe Lake in Succasunna. A total of $2,400 was raised in donations, which will go towards funding riders’ trips on the Unity Tour.
Additionally, some Unity Tour riders who previously made the trip to Washington D.C. also rode on the tour.
The Roxbury Unity Tour also coincided with the passing of Officer Joe Franklin, a retired police officer who suddenly lost his life on the national Unity Tour last month.
It was the students who cheered on the Roxbury police officers on May 9 for the national Unity Tour, and in turn, the Roxbury officers supported the students with their Unity Tour.
After the student’s tour, police officers were able to spend time talking to the kids over pizza, water and ice cream. They took a group photograph to remember both the day and the hard work put in to the bike tour.
Palanchi described his deep appreciation for the kids and the work they were doing for their community.
“They wanted to show law enforcement [officers] support in a time when there are some issues out there for law enforcement,” remarked Palanchi.
Not only did the tour celebrate practical ways that kids can make a difference in their communities, illustrated by the money they raised, but it also reinforced the support community members and police officers have for each other.
“It was a pretty humbling thing to have 14 year-old kids recognize there are some issues out there [and] the police could use some of their support,” concluded Palanchi.