ROXBURY, NJ – To honor a former colleague who died last year while participating in the annual Police Unity Tour bicycle event, 17 members of the Roxbury Police Department are hoping to participate in this year’s ride.

That's more riders than ever before, and that's creating a problem for Roxbury Police Patrolman Silvio Valdes, who’s trying to find sponsors for the Roxbury riders. Participants are required to raise $1,850 each to ride in the event, meaning Roxbury’s contingent needs to come up with more than $31,000.

Valdes, on Wednesday, apologetically asked members of the Roxbury Area Chamber of Commerce to help. He said he initially vowed he wasn’t going to bother Roxbury’s businesses with donation requests - realizing how often they’re asked by other organizations in town for money - but the unexpected number of officers who want to participate is forcing him to do so.

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“Normally, the way it works is you have to raise X amount of money for each officer that goes,” Valdes told the Chamber members gathered at a luncheon. “Well now it’s like 17 guys want to go and I knew that was going to be a problem because I did it one year and it’s hard enough just to raise $1,850 just for one rider.”

He said he sent letters to about 450 New Jersey police departments, asking for donations. About 35 responded so far, Valdes said. He also sent requests to police departments in big cities and was excited when the Boston Police Department sent $250.

So far, Roxbury police have gathered about $10,000, Valdes said, stressing that every little donation helps. “Ten bucks. 20 bucks. Whatever the number is it’s one dollar closer to this goal,” Valdes said.

The Roxbury team hopes to ride the Flemington-to-Washington, D.C. tour on May 12 as a remembrance of retired Roxbury Police Lt. Joe Franklin, who died last year during the Police Unity Tour when he was involved in a serious crash involving several bicycles.

Those who wish to help Roxbury police raise the funds can do so by clicking here.