UAPD bikers go the distance for United Way

By Laura Ingalls

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Local law enforcement officers will bicycle to the U.S.-Mexican border today to benefit Tucson United Way charities.

Seven university bicycle officers will leave from the University of Arizona Mall around sunrise to pedal a grueling 100-mile route along Interstate 10 to Willcox, UA police officer Martin Ramirez said. Donations and money from a UAPD T-shirt sale will benefit the United Way.

The United Way gives money to a variety of philanthropies "to help people out in times of crisis," said Steve Suarez, United Way campaign division director. He said the organization was pleased to be approached by UAPD.

"This is not the traditional way the United Way raises funds, but we always encourage people to raise money in their own ways," he said.

UAPD's bike team includes: officers Denny Mallory, Don Buotte, Martin Ramirez, Dave Hickok, Mike Smith, Vince Tracey and security officer Rudy Acosta.

Although the officers are willing to take on the arduous trek, the bicycle ride will go one-way. Ramirez said both the riders and their bicycles will drive back in comfortable donated vans.

"We'll rest, cool down, change clothes and eat something," he said.

About 10 officers from Pima Community College Department of Public Safety, the Tucson Police Department and the U.S. Border Patrol will join UAPD in its ride.

The Willcox ride is part of the 1,600 mile route from Imperial Beach, Calif. to South Padre Island, Texas, that southwestern law enforcement units will complete. Each law enforcement team chose chose its own charities to support, Ramirez said.

The Law Enforcement Bicycle Ride was initially organized by a border patrol agent. But law enforcement officers in the route's four states adopted the project when federal support for the ride waned, he said.

Although it's been a hectic month of sponsor-searching, Ramirez said 10 businesses donated to get UAPD's unit on the road.

The officers have eight hours to complete the ride before the next leg starts from Willcox into New Mexico. However, Ramirez said he's not worried if they don't meet up with the next group of bikers.

"We're going to take our time. We're not there to burn anyone. I want everyone to make it," Ramirez said.

The trip features a steep climb to Benson and through Texas Canyon, Ramirez said. UAPD's bicycle force has been biking out to Gate's Pass and Starr Pass to bulk up for the ride.

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