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Temple Terrace cops gearing up for ride in 'Police Unity Tour'

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Each year, of the many noble efforts to honor and commemorate the myriad law enforcement officers slain in performance of duty, one such notable tribute is the Police Unity Tour (PUT). The PUT consists of police officers from law enforcement agencies all across the nation who gear up and ride bicycles hundreds of miles to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (NLEOM) in Washington, D.C.

Held every year in May, the NLEOM pays tribute in various ways to honor those brothers and sisters --law enforcement officers from various jurisdictions throughout the U.S.-- who have perished in the line of duty.

This year, two of Temple Terrace's finest, Police Captain Michael Pridemore and Police Officer Stefanie Huertas, will don police bicycle-officer attire and trek several hundred miles to the NLEOM site in D.C. Pridemore and Huertas, riding and representing the Temple Terrace Police Department, a small, suburban enclave neighboring Tampa, Fla., are already engaged in preparations to disembark on the cycling sojourn.

No stranger to riding in the Police Unity Tour, Captain Pridemore is once again participating. Stemming from his personal and professional convictions, as well as prior PUT experiences in which he was a participant, Pridemore intimates: "I rode the tour in 2005, 2006 and 2008 and it is one of the most moving events I have ever been a part of."

As a carefully structured design element, the PUT support team places "rest stops" along the route to D.C. for bicycle riders to stretch, rehydrate, eat, and conduct any necessary maintenance.

Captain Pridemore reflected upon prior experiences: "During the course of the three day ride, we make several stops at locations where officers have been killed in the line of duty, to pay homage to their sacrifice. The day after our ride into D.C., we have the privilege of escorting surviving family members into the Candlelight Vigil at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. It is truly something special."

As a core means to participate in the Police Unity Tour, each entrant must raise their own funds to register and successfully endure the journey.

With target goals of raising $2000. each as sponsorship dollars in order to participate in this year's Police Unity Tour, both Pridemore and Huertas have launched fundraising campaigns to achieve the financial goals so that riding in this tribute-based event is possible.

The Police Unity Tour is the brainchild of Police Officer Patrick P. Montuore of the Florham Park Police Department in Florham Park, New Jersey. Launched in 1997, Montuore sought a way to pay homage to the nation's fallen law enforcement officers. Hence, the Police Unity Tour came to fruition from one officer's desire to bring further awareness to those who died.

Officer Montuore developed the slogan "We ride for those who died" which epitomizes the core of PUT. Since its inception in 1997 when 18 police bicycle riders set out on the maiden journey as PUT participants, nearly 1700 riders participated last May. To date, $14 million has been raised and provided to the NLEOM fund.

Raising funds and awareness via the Police Unity Tour is the result of hard work and concentrated efforts of not only Officer Montuore but myriad police officers and police supporters across the nation.

PUT chapters were developed and the concept spread to what it is today: hundreds of riders and hundreds of supporters lend themselves to the effort.

PUT proceeds are destined for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial fund. The NLEOM fund provides financial assistance to police survivors and related efforts, in addition to NLEOM maintenance.

Each May, the NLEOM is congregated by thousands from all over the world, cops and civilians alike, all of whom pay tribute to law enforcement officers who paid the ultimate price, selflessly.

Donations for both Officer Huertas and Captain Pridemore can be submitted for Team Temple Terrace at the Police Unity Tour FirstGiving donation site.

Another method by which supporters can donate funds to this worthy cause is via the Florida state Police Unity Tour chapter's link.

In the event funding goals are unmet, both Captain Pridemore and Officer Huertas will be unable to participate.

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