Illinois Concerns of Police Survivors bicyclists make annual stop in Logan County

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[July 22, 2021]     Friday was a great day, if you were a duck. But for more than 100 men and women on bicycles traveling Route 66 on their way to Chicago, not so much.

The Illinois Concerns for Police Survivors were on their annual bike ride raising awareness for their cause. Typically referred to as ICOPS, the group offers the invaluable service of emotional support to families of police officers who die in the line of duty in Illinois.

That service includes teams of volunteers who stand at the ready for when the worst call of a police officer family’s life comes. Members of the group rush to be with those family members, offering emotional support, a shoulder to cry on and also lean on through the days ahead and help with planning and repairing for the final resting of a hero. Afterward though, they don’t just go away never to be seen or heard from again. The ICOPS program offers support throughout the life of the survivors as needed.

This support includes youth camps for children of fallen officers. The camps consist of children all of whom have suffered similar losses of a parent. The camp offers counselling, but moreover, a time to interact and share their feelings and struggles with other youth who understand the emotional trauma of losing a parent in the line of duty.

On Friday, the group endured a damp ride all day. However, not long after passing Lincoln on Route 66 headed for their lunch stop in Atlanta, the group encountered a deluge of rain that left them soaked to the bone.

As they rode into Atlanta in intense rain, supporters stood outside the Atlanta Firehouse cheering them in, in the pouring down rain.

With the stop, the group found respite from the rain, but they also found a hot, carb-loaded meal provided by the Eminence Church in rural Atlanta. That meal and the dry shelter would boost their energy and get them through the balance of the day.

The church has been providing a hot meal for the riders for the past several years. They first began doing the lunch breaks at the Atlanta Fire House. A few years ago, the group altered their route away from Route 66 because they wanted to make a stop in Tremont to honor a fallen officer. That year, the church worked with the Lincoln Rural Fire Protection District station to provide a location to serve the biking officers.

The group continued to serve food at the Lincoln fire house for the next couple of years.

This year, the ICOPS returned to Atlanta because of their biking schedule. They were going to be in Lincoln too early to eat lunch, so once again this year; the meal was served in Atlanta.


The officers and their State Police motorcycle escorts enjoyed a meal of lasagna, salad, and light refreshing desserts.

Before sitting down for their meal there were a few business items that the group needed to address.

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Pat and Norm Mueller of Atlanta arrived at the firehouse with a surprise. The couple had decided that they wanted to contribute to the mission of the ICOPS. They arrived with a generous donation in hand and presented it to a member of the group.

Marsha Fernandes was on hand with two by four’s for the first Veteran Tiny Home building project to start this week. She spoke to the group about the mission of the Central Illinois Veterans Commission and 2 X 4’s of Hope. She asked them to come and sign a board for the first veteran recipient.

A number of officers took the opportunity to put personal messages on the boards.

When an officer dies in the line of duty it is referred to by his counterparts as the “end of watch.” Part of the ICOPS ride purpose is to remember and honor those officers and note their end of watch by reading their end of watch report. Reports were read aloud for two of the officers who saw their end of watch in 2020. A moment of silence was observed after each report.

Eminence Pastor Henry Johnson welcomed the ICOPS and later delivered a prayer seeking God’s protection of the officers on their journey and a blessing on the food prepared to strengthen them.

Then it was time to enjoy a hearty meal.

Many of the officers were wet and tired when they arrived in Atlanta, but they would leave revived and ready for the next leg of their journey. Speaking with one officer he said that the ICOPS have ridden in all weather conditions. He personally said he preferred heat of rain. He said when the rain comes down, it doesn’t actually hurt as it hits him, but it weighs him down and just makes the peddling that much harder.

As the group came around Lincoln on the Route 66/55 loop, they were on a double lane road. Escort vehicles kept an eye on traffic behind the bikers and signaled when it was okay for cars to pass the bikes. Some of those cars rolled down their windows and shouted encouragement and greetings to the riders. One officer on the ride talked about that saying that it is so very good when people call out to them and give them some love. She noted “It makes me think, yes, I can do this, I can peddle one more mile, because those people care and want me to.”

To learn more about the ICOPS or offer support visit their website at Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.)

[Nila Smith]

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