Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre thanks the citizens and businesses of the community for supporting the Lafourche Parish Sheriffs Office’s participation in the 2013 Police Unity Tour. Six LPSO representatives, including Sheriff Webre himself, took part in a three-day, 250-mile bicycle ride from Portsmouth, Virginia to Washington, D.C. at the site of the National Law Enforcement Memorial. This is the premier event for National Police Week, which occurs annually in mid-May.
LPSO’s team, called Team Blue Lafourche, consisted of Sheriff Webre, Lt. John Champagne, Lt. Mark Adams, Lt. Doug Foreman, and Lt. Andrew Labat, as well as Barret Ellender, Chief Financial Officer for the Sheriffs Office. The six cyclists began with a 111-mile ride on Friday, May 10, and concluded with by cycling to the site of the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on Sunday, May 12. Team Blue Lafourche raised $15,000 to contribute to the Memorial.
This was one of the most significant and meaningful endeavors in which I have participated in my entire career, said Sheriff Webre. It was amazing to see men and women from so many agencies coming together without regard for rank, position or status; all of us united for the common cause of supporting each other and the officers who paid the ultimate price in protecting their communities.
Each Police Unity Tour rider chooses at least one fallen officer for which they dedicate their ride, and the rider wears a bracelet with that officer’s name during the entire trip. Following the ride, the riders attempt to connect with the surviving family members of the fallen officer for which they rode.
A 250-mile, three-day bicycle ride is a physically demanding and challenging event, but the discomfort you may feel during the ride pales in comparison to the loss of an officer to his family, friends and fellow officers, added Sheriff Webre.
The $15,000 raised by Team Blue Lafourche was part of a grand total of $1.7 million raised by all the tour chapters combined. The money raised locally was from generous citizens and businesses that contributed to the cause. This included Lafourche Parish Public Schools which held jean days where students donated money in exchange for wearing jeans instead of their uniforms. Additionally, deputies of the Lafourche Parish Sheriffs Office held several fundraisers internally to support this year’s ride.
As an agency, we pride ourselves on our community involvement going far beyond our duty to protect and serve, said Sheriff Webre. We are actively involved in endeavors which support charities, non-profit groups, and other worthwhile fundraising events, but none hit as close to home as being able to support those officers who gave their lives in service to their community, as well as those they left behind.
The names of four Lafourche Parish Sheriffs Office deputies appear on the memorial wall:
Thomas W. Procter (End of Watch: May 6, 1978)
Chaney J. Champagne (End of Watch: July 31, 2003)
Kurt E. Harrelson (End of Watch: July 31, 2003)
Martha A. Woods-Shareef (End of Watch: August 20, 2008)
Chaney Champagne’s brother, Lt. John Champagne, has experienced the tour both as a surviving family member and as a rider. As a survivor, when I saw the sea of blue ride into the memorial in 2004, I was honored to think that all of that was for my family and me, said Lt. Champagne. Now when I ride into the Memorial, I am able to give back that same sense of honor to my fellow survivors. I am so glad to be part of something so spectacular!
Team Blue Lafourche’s other riders also shared their thoughts on the experience:
• Lt. Mark Adams: “For me it was something that I will never forget. I was especially honored to be able to participate in the escorting of the survivors for the Candlelight Vigil.”
• Lt. Doug Foreman: “It was exhilarating to see a large group of people filled high with energy and joyful character from support personnel to participants. It was a humbling experience to finally meet the survivor family member of the hero you proudly honored during the tour, honoring his or her memory with your performance, endurance and character. The experience and meaning is beyond comprehension.”
• Lt. Andrew Labat: “I learned to appreciate all the effort that I witnessed as our fellow officers struggled to push forward, and took on the struggle when riding out of respect for what the Police Unity Tour means to everyone involved as well as the survivors. It was nice to see how so many demonstrated respect towards the whole concept of the tour, including the host cities and others we came across, putting that priority first and not themselves. And of course the continuing, tireless effort to let the survivors know they are not now, nor will they ever be alone in their grief and hope that their lost love ones are never forgotten.”
• Barret Ellender: “It was a humbling experience to honor those who have sacrificed their lives to protect and serve our communities, both locally and nationally. What made the daunting task of traveling 250 miles by bicycle achievable was the ability of us as riders to put our own physical discomforts behind the hardships of our fallen colleagues and their survivors.”
The Police Unity Tour was founded in 1997 by officers who wanted to raise awareness of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty and to money for the National Law Enforcement Memorial in the nation’s capital. The event started with just 18 cyclists and has grown to include hundreds from nearly every state in the nation. The Police Unity Tour is the single, largest fundraiser for the memorial and one of the most anticipated events during National Police Week activities. Established in 1962, National Police Week falls during the calendar week of May 15, which is National Peace Officers Memorial Day.