MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Helmets in place, water bottles safely stowed away, nearly 300 bike riders left North Miami Beach on Monday as part of the 15th annual Tour de Force police charity bicycle ride.
The five day, 270 mile tour, will come to an end in Daytona Beach Shores. Each day the riders will aver 50-55 miles at a moderate pace of 15-17 mph.
This year’s tour will benefit the families of 13 law enforcement officers who were lost in the line of duty during 2011. For the first time ever, the tour has a title sponsor, Denny’s restaurants, which organizers hope will help them triple their goal to raise $100,000.00.
“This is my fourth year riding- it’s very challenging,” said Miami-Dade Police Officer Rhonda Simmons. “For me it’s very important because we had two officers killed in the line of duty last year- Amanda and Castillo.”
Amanda Haworth and Roger Castillo were shot to death while serving a warrant in Liberty City.
“Tour de Force is an exceptional charitable organization and Denny’s sees this as an opportunity to give back to those who have given so much by making the ultimate sacrifice,” said Adam Jacobs, president of Denny’s Miami co-op in a statement.
“We are deeply appreciative of Denny’s enthusiastic support and partnership,” said Detective Craig Catlin, a North Miami Beach police officer and executive director of Tour de Force. “Their generosity will make this an unforgettable year for Tour De Force and the families that need a helping hand now more than ever.”
At the ride kick-off Monday morning, Sunny Isles Police Chief Fred Moss told the riders, “For every family, the lives of the survivors that you touch by doing what you’re doing is the most important thing I feel that we do, outside of the service we give to our communities.”
He also wished them safe travels. “On behalf of all the families I ask only one thing- God’s speed protect you throughout this entire route. Be safe and be careful.”
During the tour, the riders will make stops in cities along the way to help raise money and awareness for the cause. The campaign will come to an end at the annual Florida Law Enforcement Memorial Service on May 7th in Tallahassee. At the event, a check will be presented to each of the families of fallen officers.
For more information visit www.FloridaTourdeForce.org.