ROCKINGHAM — Children in Richmond and Scotland counties will have a better Christmas this year thanks to local bikers.
More than $12,000 raised during the second annual Back the Blue Ride on Saturday, Aug. 21 will be split between the Rockingham, Hamlet and Laurinburg police departments and the sheriffs’ offices in Richmond and Scotland counties to use for their shop-with-a-cop programs.
Riders on nearly 190 bikes — including a few trikes — participated in the ride organized by Chris Jackson, a 24-year veteran patrol officer with the Laurinburg Police Department.
The first event, held in September of 2020, drew more than 200 riders and was free. This year, there was a $20 fee for bikes and other vehicles in the convoy.
Many of the riders met and left from Jerry’s Deli in Laurinburg and headed to the Hide-A-Way Tavern north of Rockingham to meet up with others before going back to the starting point.
Congressman Dan Bishop, who stopped by to speak at last year’s ride, joined the bikers for the entire route.
Before leaving the Hide-A-Way, Bishop once again addressed the crowd from the PA system of a SCSO patrol car, saying he was “honored to be back.”
“You know, I spend a lot of time in Washington … and I don’t think there’s a lot of common sense in Washington, but I know there’s a lot of common sense right here,” Bishop said, to a short applause. “You’re sending a message that will be understood around this community, around this state, around this country. The dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life is political figures trying to undermine support for law enforcement.
“If anybody ever thought defunding police, abolishing police forces, was a great political message, it qualifies as the stupidest idea in the history of American politics,” Bishop continued.
“But you folks understand that. People with good common sense know that’s ridiculous.”
Bishop said it wasn’t just a one- or two-time ride, but the participants were standing up for law enforcement.
Several of the riders displayed the “thin blue line” from their bikes, while others wore T-shirts supporting police.
“Momentum is building, and you guys are the repository of common sense and you’re bringing that message back to the American people — and we’re just getting started,” Bishop said. “We’re going to stand up for law enforcement, for first responders, for the men and women in our United States military. We’re gonna support ‘em, we’re going to restore common sense in this nation.”
Bishop wasn’t the only politician participating.
Richmond County Commissioner Toni Maples joined the ride along with her husband, Chris, a Navy veteran who formerly worked for Bishop.
“Our officers are extremely important to our community and whenever something happens we’re the first ones to call them,” she said, adding that it was also important to help provide for local children who may not even know if they’ll have a home on Christmas.
After leaving the Hide-A-Way, the convoy headed toward downtown Rockingham, driving by the home of the late Sheriff James Clemmons — who was honored with a ride the week before — then all the law enforcement agencies of the two counties.
Once back in Laurinburg, the riders were joined by Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Richmond, N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Jeff Carpenter and Scotland County Sheriff Ralph Kersey — who rolled in on a motor scooter.
The RCSO held its first Shop with a Deputy event last December, helping around four dozen children. Rockingham’s program started its program several years earlier.
The Hamlet Police Department, for the past several years, has been helping individual families with presents for the kids and supplies for the home.
Laurinburg PD and SCSO both began their programs in 2015.