ROXBURY, NJ – More than 270 Roxbury middle school students came out May 24 to show support for the township police department by participating in the Roxbury Student Unity Tour, a bicycling event at Horseshoe Lake Park in Succasunna.

Organized by the Eisenhower Middle School (EMS) Character Education Committee, the event was about double the size of last year’s and raised about $6,000, said EMS physical education teacher and event coordinator Heather Roddy. The money, $3,500 more than was raised last year, will be given to the Roxbury Police Department to help sponsor officers who want to ride in next year’s Police Unity Tour from New Jersey to Washington, D.C.

This year, 16 Roxbury officers rode the Police Unity Tour. It was the largest contingent ever from the department; a team gathered in tribute to retired Roxbury Police Lt. Joseph Franklin who died during a 2016 Police Unity Tour bicycle crash.

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Accompanied by Roxbury police on bicycles, EMS students rode bikes around a course at Horseshoe Lake during the Roxbury Student Unity Tour event. To participate, students needed to raise at least $25 to donate to the police.

New this year was the inclusion of a “cheer squad” made up of students who wanted to participate without riding. They gathered at several spots along the course and cheered as the riders passed.

Another new feature was a night-before-the-event “meet and greet” with students and Roxbury police. And this year the riders were donned in new T-shirts donated by the police department.

Among those speaking Wednesday before the riding began was Police Unity Tour founder Pat Montuore, the former chief of police in Florham Park. “It’s not just about the money we raise, it’s about the awareness and it’s about the unity and family of law enforcement,” Montuore told the gathered youngsters. “You shouldn’t be afraid to engage with a law enforcement officer. Our job is to protect and to be there for all of you.”

The Police Unity Tour raises money for the families of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty and to fund a Washington, D.C. memorial in their honor.