ROXBURY, NJ – Attempting to ward off a frigid wind by wearing their Police Unity Tour jackets, several Roxbury policemen pedaled to township schools Friday to gather money donated toward their goal of riding in the annual charity bicycling event.

Preceded by police cars with flashing lights and blaring sirens, the officers – led by Roxbury Patrolman Silvio Valdes – collected money from students at five Roxbury schools. Beneath their winter coats, many of the youngsters were wearing blue clothes as part of the “Wear Blue for Blue Day” effort, a brainchild of Kennedy School Principal Eric Renfors.

In a statement, Roxbury schools spokeswoman Ann Rhodes said the staff, students and parents of the school district “heard the call of need from the Roxbury Police Department … and as a district we came together for a day of blue to show our support for the men and women in this community who protect us and come when they hear our call.”

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The money will help the department field an unprecedented team of 17 riders at the May 12 bicycle tour in which police ride from New Jersey to Washington, D.C. in memory of fallen law enforcement officers. The Roxbury officers wanted a big contingent as a show of honor for retired Roxbury Police Lt. Joseph Franklin, who died during last year’s Unity Tour when he was involved in a multi-bicycle crash.

“This whole movement got started after a Tapinto Roxbury article on February 22nd where a Roxbury cop made a reluctant plea for bike tour sponsors,” said Rhodes in her statement. “The Tap Into Roxbury article sent this fundraiser viral. After seeing this article, Roxbury residents and families wanted to get involved and members of the Roxbury Schools community asked on the Kennedy School Facebook page how they could help or how the schools could get involved to help Valdes and the police reach their fundraising goal.”

The police need $31,450 to send all 17 officers to the tour. Each rider needs to raise $1,850. Valdes, interviewed Friday as he was about to pedal from Lincoln-Roosevelt School to Franklin Elementary School, said he was sure the money raised by the schools would bring the police fundraiser to its goal.

That was the intent of Renfors, who said, “We want to be the ones to push them over the top.”

Eisenhower Middle School did not to collect donations for the event because it is conducting a large Police Unity Tour day in May as part of its civics class and character education program, Rhodes noted.