Bike ride back families of fallen officers
By Maria Amante firstname.lastname@example.org/648-3072 July 13, 2012 10:42PM
Olga Martin, widow of Gary Martin, hugs Monica Zahasky of the Bloomington Police Department as she arrives in Merrillville Friday afternoon. Zahasky participated in the ride six years ago with deputy chief Gary Martin when he and another officer from the Indiana State Police were struck and killed. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 15, 2012 6:10AM
Jennifer Martin-Luskey has nothing but admiration and respect for the more than 50 bicyclists going across the state to support the surviving families of fallen police officers.
Martin-Luskey is the daughter of Deputy Lake County Chief Gary Martin, one of two officers who lost their lives during the annual Cycling for Survivors Foundation bike ride around the state of Indiana.
Martin and Lt. Gary Dudley, one of the founding members of the Cycling for Survivors Foundation, were struck while completing the ride in 2006.
Martin-Luskey said she’s appreciative of the cyclists who are riding in her father’s and everyone else’s honor.
“They’re family,” she said. “They took care of us. They’re our family and friends. There’s not a selfish person in this group. We feel nothing but passion and love when I look at their faces. These guys are trying to make it better and build us back up.”
The 13-day event was Dudley’s brainchild, to benefit the survivors of officers killed in the line of duty. The riders travel along the perimeter of the state, and stopped in Merrillville on the fifth day of their journey. They will end the ride in Indianapolis on July 21.
The cyclists have raised $40,000 this year and will present a check to I.N.C.O.P.S., which benefits fallen police officers families, said Cycling for Survivors Foundation President and Indiana State Trooper Rich Crawford.
Even though Dudley and Martin died during the trip, canceling the event was out of the question, Crawford said.
“Each one of these guys puts their lives on the line every day,” Crawford said. “And this makes people stop and think. ... We didn’t want (Dudley’s) vision to disappear.
Over 10 years, $300,000 has been raised, Crawford said.
Jennifer Martin-Luskey is also glad the bike ride lives on even with her father’s death.
“It was something he loved,” she said.
Her brother, Sgt. Greg Martin of the Gary Police Department, also is glad the ride continues.
“(My father’s death) brought a lot of support (for the event),” he said. “We didn’t want it to happen (but a lot of good came from my father’s death).”
The ride is “very bittersweet,” said Joe Exl of Hebron, Gary Martin’s brother in law.
“It hurts everyone,” he said to ride through cemeteries where deceased officers are buried. “But we get a lot of honks and waves. A lot of support.”
He said a lot of people stop the bikers to give a donation to the cause, which is “a really good feeling.”
Donations can be made by sending checks to Cops Cycling for Survivors, P.O. Box 673, New Palestine, IN 46163. Crawford said donations to the charity are tax-deductible.
On Friday, the riders traveled from Mishawaka to Merrillville, and will depart Merrillville for Kentland on Saturday morning.
For more information, visit home.comcast.net/~copscycling4survivors.