No sweat -- hundreds hop on hogs in Downers Grove to raise money for police charities
As hundreds of motorcycles revved around her, retired Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Lisa Ditzler fought to keep her composure.
Ditzler wore a T-shirt commemorating state Trooper Brooke Jones-Story, who died March 28 when a trucker struck her during a traffic stop. "There's good days and bad days," Ditzler said
A mix of solemnity and celebration marked the kickoff of the Lt. Rich Kozik Memorial Park Motorcycle and Fun Car Ride Saturday from the Illinois tollway in Downers Grove.
About 400 participants made the over 200-mile drive to Springfield in sizzling heat to raise funds for ISP Memorial Park and families of fallen troopers.
Among them was Tony Salvato, who carefully sprayed Windex on the gleaming metal of a Harley-Davidson prior to departing.
It was the Spring Grove resident's second year taking part. "These guys take their lives in their hands," said Salvatore whose neighbor is a retired trooper.
The annual event had an added poignancy this year following the deaths of three on-duty troopers between January and March -- Jones-Story, Christopher Lambert on Jan. 12, and Gerald "Jerry" Ellis on March 30.
Lambert was killed by a passing SUV driver on I-294 near Willow Road while helping with a crash; Ellis was killed by a wrong-way driver on I-94 in Lake County.
"I'm riding for the fallen officers, that's what brings me out today," Eva Muhr of Roselle said.
Schaumburg pastor at St. Marcelline Catholic Church and ISP Chaplain Hal Stanger was busy prior to the start of the ride blessing motorcycles. With the rash of fatal crashes in 2019, troopers are "very concerned not only for themselves but for their families," he said.
The annual ride was named for Trooper Rich Kozik, who died in 2018 from a medical emergency, and who had helped fundraise for ISP Memorial Park.
When the park was dedicated last fall, "nobody knew at that time we would be adding names to the memorial," said Jack Garcia, a retired state police deputy director.
Tollway and police officials urged the bikers to stick together and keep hydrated amid temperatures in the 90s.
"Many have said it's the best ride of the year," District 15 Capt. Dominic Chiappini said. "Let's keep the memories alive of these troopers who paid the ultimate sacrifice."