BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Police officers from Berkeley Heights and neighboring departments will take part in the Police Unity Tour, a four day, 300-mile bike ride to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. that raises awareness and money for fallen police officers and their families.
Det. Mark Stallone, Ptl. Jeanne-Marie Mocarski and Ptl. Trent "T-Bone" Fettes will be leaving from West Trenton on May 8 and arriving in Washington D.C. on May 12 at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
They ride for an officer who died in the line of duty and to raise awareness and money for fallen police officers and their families.
Ptl. Mocarski rides for good friend, Matthew Melchionda who was killed on duty in a motor vehicle accident on March 8, 2006. "I will ride in memory of Matt every year until I am physically no longer able to," said Ptl. Mocarski.
Melchionda was killed when a vehicle did not yield to his police vehicle and turned left as Melchionda was passing. Melchionda was killed instantly.
Ptl. Trent Fettes rides for Ptl. Jonathan Molina, whom Fettes served in the United States Marine Corps in Kings Bay, GA. "I am honored to be riding this year's tour in his memory," said Ptl. Fettes.
While off duty, Molina witnessed a group of criminals committing property damage. Molina identified himself as a police officer, and was ambushed by the group.
"That's why we do it," said Det. Stallone. "I ride for a few people -- Cindy Lordi-Parlavecchio, her dad was killed in Hillside right before Christmas in a robbery attempt at Gino's Restaurant in 1979. There's an officer I ride for that was killed from my academy class in Garwood. Terry Hanratty's brother -- I ride for all of them."
"It's a pretty emotional time," said Det. Stallone. "The first time I rode, we met little kids whose fathers were killed the year before, holding onto their fathers' badges. And moms that lost their sons or daughters. It is really emotional," said Stallone.
Det. Stallone has rode on almost every tour since its inception. This will be Ptl. Mocarski's third year and Ptl. Fettes' second year riding for fallen officers that died in the line of duty.
"There were 18 riders in the first group," said Det. Stallone. "Steve Ambrose was one of the first charter riders. I joined him in year two and the number doubled to 36. Now, there are over 2,000 riders," said Det. Stallone.
The idea of The Police Unity Tour originated from Officer Pat Montuore of Florham Park. While in class for DARE, he came up with this idea of riding to D.C. to raise money for the memorial said Det. Stallone. He along with 17 officers rode to D.C. and raised $18,000 the first year; the riders doubled to 36 in year two, raising $50,000. Now, 2,000 riders participate, raising in excess of $1.72 million for the National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial and Museum.
"Most riders experience sitting on a bicycle seat that long is the biggest challenge," said Det. Stallone. "Being able to ride your bike for 10 hours a day."
"Only sworn officers or survivors can ride," said Det. Stallone. "The Police Unity Tour is a really good cause, it's very personal," said Det. Stallone.
Each participant must raise $1,800 to ride. All funds raised will help offset trip expenses, with the remainder to be donated to the Memorial and Museum.
Det. Stallone, Ptl. Mocarski and Ptl. Fettes belong to the Tri-County Chapter and will be hosting a Scotch and Wine Tasting Fundraiser at Fairmount Country Club on April 21 with Tricky Tray, 50/50 and Fireworks. Proceeds benefit the Police Unity Tour.
Those who would like to donate may do so with a tax deductible check made to the “Police Unity Tour”, c/o Berkeley Heights PBA Local 144, 29 Park Avenue, Berkeley Heights, NJ 07922, Attn: Unity Tour Riders.