Bikers ride to support officers
FLORENCE, S.C. — A three-minute-long parade of motorcyclists and other supporters of the Florence 7 braved what looked like it would be a rainy Saturday and rode, in the dry, from Black Jack Harley-Davidson to Darlington Raceway to raise money for the officers and their families.
The goal of the event was to raise at least $80,000 for the families through a $20 entry fee, silent auction and donations, said Ben Knotts, one of the event organizers.
Knotts, who works with Pork Chop’s Tattoo Studio, said he knows many law enforcement officers through the business and wanted to do something to lend a hand. When he approached Tony Baird with Raceway Grill and Toby Bellamy with Bellamy’s Country Catering they too had been working on a similar event.
The two events were merged, Black Jack Harley-Davidson got on board along with Pee Dee and state law enforcement and Saturday’s event was born.
“Everybody came together in the community to make this work for an event in Florence that was awful,” Knotts said. “You see it in the news all the time and you never think it’s going to happen where you live but when it does hit home nobody realizes how bad it is until it happens.”
“We all wanted to do something to give back to the officers who lost their lives and the ones who were injured and try to show them the community does care about them,” Knotts said.
A sentiment echoed by many riders.
“Seven officers fallen down — we want to support them,” said Chris Oelze of Columbia who, along with others, rode a long way for the event. “Support the community. Plus it’s a great day to ride.”
Events at the dealership included lunch, a band, a silent auction, gift wrapping and a riding demonstration provided by the dealership and deputies from the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.
While planning for the event has taken weeks, preparation started Friday, Knotts said.
“They’ve been up all night cooking at Raceway Grill getting ready for this,” he said.
And “this” was 2,000 pounds of pork barbecue, 500 pounds each of chicken and rice, 250 pounds of green beans and more, Knotts said.
The silent auction was set to continue at the track along with the food, two bands and a 12x16-foot screen upon which to watch the Clemson vs. University of South Carolina football game starting at 6 p.m.
“We want to give back to the families as much as we can,” Knotts said. “We’ll be there until the game is over.”