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Despite the heat, thousands ride for the families of officers

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ATLANTIC CITY — Suzanne McGettigan stood under the shade of a fig tree at the corner of Arctic and Delaware avenues, loudly ringing a cow bell late Sunday morning.

She was cheering on the riders completing the Ben to the Shore Bike Tour and waiting for her husband, Patrick. Her phone let her know he was about 2 miles away after a long ride across South Jersey from the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia.

“He does this every year, and every year I worry about him,” she said.

Patrick McGettigan, 66, has made the ride each year for about 10 years. On Sunday, he joined more than 2,000 cyclists to raise funds for the Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation.

Other years, she said, there has been rain. This year, it was the blazing heat that had her regularly checking his progress on the long ride, waiting to welcome him as he came into sight. They live in Ventnor. Patrick stayed over in Philadelphia with his bike, joining other riders for a pre-race dinner Saturday, she said.

The event looked likely to surpass the $1.2 million fundraising goal, according to Mark O’Connor, the executive director of the foundation. This is the 35th year for the event, he said, a 65-mile ride. It was also the first year with a shorter option, a 30-mile ride from Hammonton.

The ride began in Philadelphia at 7 a.m., and before noon, the finish line was crowded with bikes.

Robert Perozze, of Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania, took the ride all the way from the bridge through the sticky, 90-degree-plus sunshine. Arriving at the finish line near the Showboat Atlantic City, he said he was feeling pretty good.

“It definitely was brutal,” he said.

Perozze, 62, said he has taken the ride for several years. He said Sunday it was at first just an enjoyable ride, but he now better appreciates and supports the organization.

“It’s a good cause,” Perozze said.

The Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation supports the families of emergency responders who have been killed or critically injured in the line of duty. The organization also works to build stronger communities, O’Connor said.

After the protests, riots and unrest that took place after the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, O’Connor said, the organization sought to bring police and young people together and to dispel some of the misunderstandings between the two groups.

Some of those efforts have taken place in Atlantic City, he said.

He cited the Temple University Police Department, which provided bicycles to about 10 young people from North Philadelphia and trained with them to make the ride to Atlantic City. That is the first time a youth bike club participated in the ride.

According to O’Connor, the riders have a lot of support throughout the ride, especially important on a day on which a heat advisory was in effect throughout the area.

Perozze said he was extra careful throughout the ride, taking in plenty of water and taking breaks as needed.

Once over the finish line, it was time for a party, with a band providing classic rock hits from the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead and more, and large tables set under tents.

Organizers cited several stories from this year’s ride, including a team of Pennsylvania State Troopers who rode in honor of Martin Mack III and Branden Sisca, who were struck by a vehicle and killed while helping a pedestrian in Pennsylvania in March.

Also taking the ride was Arcenio Perez, a Philadelphia Police officer who was injured in a shooting nine months ago. He rode to support injured and fallen police officers.

Contact Bill Barlow:

609-272-7290

bbarlow@pressofac.com

Twitter @jerseynews_bill

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