ROCKINGHAM — Despite having nearly half the number of motorcycles as the first year, the third annual Back the Blue ride brought in double the bounty.
The two-county event, which raises money to support shop-with-a-cop programs in Richmond and Scotland counties, on Saturday, Sept. 17 raised $14,000, according to organizer Chris Jackson.
Jackson, a 25-year veteran of the Laurinburg Police Department, started the event in 2000 following a nationwide backlash against law enforcement.
That year, there were more than 200 participants but the ride only generated $700. Last year’s ride collected around $12,000.
“Not sure how we made more but it was awesome to see everyone come out in Scotland and Richmond (counties,) Jackson said via a Facebook message Sunday evening.
As in the previous two years, the weekend ride started at Jerry’s Deli in Laurinburg, with a convoy leaving there and meeting up with Richmond County bikers at the Hide-A-Way Tavern.
While there, they were greeted by several political leaders, including state Rep. Ben Moss, R-Rockingham, Sheriff Mark Gulledge and U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop. Bishop has made an appearance — and a speech — at all three rides.
“A lot of times, to serve as a law enforcement officer, invites personal danger every time you put on a uniform,” Bishop said, speaking over the PA system of a Scotland County Sheriff’s Office patrol car. “It’s not for a thrill, or a personal advantage — it’s the ultimate sacrifice, to protect and serve others.”
Bishop said LEOs live out John 15:13 — “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” — “in an everyday occupation.”
The congressman went on to say the nation is struggling with an “identity crisis” in many ways, including second-guessing a commitment to law and order.
“But while we sort that out, new dangers to law enforcement officers continue to multiply,” Bishop continued, naming the death last month of Wake County Sheriff’s Deputy Ned Byrd as an example.
Bishop said that by participating in the ride, the bikers are “speaking up for law enforcement officers.”
“What you’re doing is important,” Bishop said, adding that the fundraising aspect of the ride will help build relationships between children and LEOs.
Before the group left to head back to Scotland County, local musician Nikki Fletcher sang the national anthem and a short prayer was offered.
Jackson said Sunday that he had planned on calling it quits for the ride after this year due to his job on the force and his part-time lawn care business and the time that goes into organizing the event.
“It really takes a lot of my time, but I enjoy doing it,” Jackson said. “So with that said, I’m having a (fourth) Back the Blue!”
Although motorcycle riding season is coming to a close, it’s not over yet.
Hide-A-Way owner Chris Sachs will be hosting a ride Sept. 24 to benefit Project Taylor, which provides toys to kids at North Carolina Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill.
Registration for that ride begins at noon, with kickstands up at 1 p.m. Cost to ride is $20. For more information call 910-719-4089.
See more photos from the Back the Blue ride below.