CLARK, NJ- The flocks of people registering and checking in, the sound of the motorcycles roaring down the street, it could only be the Blue Knights New Jersey III as they kicked off their Knights of the Woods event at the Deutscher Club on Sunday, August 5, 2018. By 9:00 a.m. the sound of motorcycles filled the air, as riders gathered and readied for the day ahead.
In the crowd were six motorcycle officers, 20 civilian road guards and an honor guard from Blue Knights Chapter VIII. A Union County and a Clark Police car, along with an ambulance were also on hand with their comrades.
There were local, federal and correction officers, both current and retired, from across the Tri-State Area, including people from New York and Pennsylvania, along with civilians participating in the day’s events.
While the day brings biker groups together as one, Clark resident Jeff Joy said the major focus is to give back to the community and create awareness and raise money for the Valerie Fund, which helps to benefit children with cancer and blood disorders.
Joy, the special events coordinator for the Clark event, has run the event for the past five years.
“This is an interaction between law enforcement in general with the community, especially in the way of which we’re doing things for the kids with cancer,” Joy said. “It’s not just about being a cop. It’s about being a part of the community and supporting the community.”
With the money raised at events like this one, the Valerie Fund also supports Camp Happy Times. This allows kids with cancer a chance to go to a camp for a week and get a break from the medical treatments.
“I’m trying to make an awareness of what the Valerie Fund is all about,” Joy said. “It’s a positive organization that serves kids with cancers and their families. It’s something where people who see the opportunity to get behind it should go and get it. They help children immensely.”
At about 10:15 a.m., the Marine Corps Honor Guard, from the unit, John Basilone Detachment No. 190, consisting of former marines, held a special ceremony with bagpipes playing, honoring the law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.
Deacon Ed Campanella, from St. John the Apostle Church in Linden, helped deliver the prayers and blessings for all current, retired and deceased law enforcement officers. The bagpipers then played, “Amazing Grace” after a moment of silence was held for fallen military members. The pipers were from the Central Jersey Police and Fire Pipes and Drums
At about 10:45 a.m., the riders proceeded to their motorcycles as a series of flashing lights became the lead of all the motorcycles filing out of the Deutscher Club. The days 50-mile ride went through Union and Somerset Counties, up to the Watchung Reservation .
The riders made their way back to the Deutscher Club at about 12:30 p.m. The riders expressed the pride they felt by taking part in the motorcycle procession.
“Today, we encountered a lot of people in cars and they were wonderful,” Joseph Caruso, the Goodwill Ambassador to the NJ Blue Knights VIII, said. “They were applauding us, giving us a thumbs-up and we truly appreciated that.”
“What many people don’t realize is, when you see large groups of motorcycles riding together in an organized manor, someone is going to greatly benefit from that ride. It’s what we do, we ride, have fun with our families and most importantly, give back and help others in the process.”
As in years past, more groups of motorcycle riders have been coming in and helping the Blue Knights with their cause with the Valerie Fund, something Joy praised.
“Every year, we’ve been growing and getting better. I’m happy to see we have people of different groups [including] people from New York [and] Pennsylvania, our former treasurer is up from Florida,” Joy said. “They come from far and wide. We’re showing that it’s a positive event. People really like the ride and the venue and music, so we’re doing something right.”
The art of giving back proved itself amongst the motorcycle groups. One group, the Fourth Watch, MC, gave back to the Blue Knights after the Blue Knights came to their ride event back in July.
“Motorcycle clubs in New Jersey, specifically the public safety clubs, we usually band together for a ride here on July 8 for the Valor Ride, which supports the Marines and the Port Authority police officers, including the Police Medal of Honor award,” Mike Carrig, the President of Fourth Watch, MC, said.
“We have no affiliation with the Blue Knights [but] they came out to our event, so we’ll come out and support their event,” Carrig added. “I think most of the public safety motorcycle clubs in New Jersey do a great job of picking a specific thing they want to help out with.”
Music played as the barbecue and bar were opened around 12:00 p.m. The event concluded at about 3:30 p.m., following the raffles and the gift giveaways.
“Our comradery, our love for motorcycles [is amazing],” Caruso said. “We gather together in big groups, we ride, we donate money to a wonderful cause and help a lot of people in the process. There’s nothing better than that.”
At the end of the day, the Blue Knights continue to do the good things for the Valerie Fund and earned praise from other motorcycle groups.
“We build a legacy of what we want to be,” Carrig said. “It’s about the legacy that you build and I think these guys [at the Blue Knights] run the event for a good reason.”
To be in the Blue Knights, one must be either a current or retired police or corrections officer.
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