The roar of 40 motorcycles ripped through the air early Saturday morning in Spokane Valley, marking the beginning of a charity ride for an organization administrators say is starving for community support.
Riders of all ages tore out of the parking lot of Lone Wolf Harley-Davidson for the third annual Bug Splat Motorcycle Ride, benefiting Spokane Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS.
Riders milled around the parking lot before beginning their 184-mile bike ride, up through Tiger, Wash., and down to Chewelah, where they stopped for lunch and a prize giveaway. Bikers snapped up their leather chaps, checked their fuel and finished one last cup of coffee before rolling into a humming line.
Each bike had a Bug Splat decal affixed to it, and upon reaching Chewelah bikers compared stickers to see who had shredded the most bugs.
COPS provides neighborhood-based programs to help maintain public safety. Though the 250 volunteers that work with the organization do not do police work themselves, they help support programs that promote safe neighborhoods, Director Christy Hamilton said.
Volunteers’ duties include registering stolen property, helping organize block watches and handing out free bike helmets to children.
“We cover drugs, gang issues, Chihuahuas barking too loud,” Hamilton said.
But it’s not cheap. Hamilton said she knows more cuts are coming at the end of the year, and she doesn’t know how COPS can function on a lower budget. The organization has about $280,000 to pay for three full-time employees and support 11 shops throughout Spokane.
All profits from Saturday’s ride went to benefit the programs.
“Fundraising in this economy is very difficult,” Hamilton said.
COPS program manager Maurece Vulcano frowned as she looked at the registration list. An initial count showed 40 riders, down from last year’s 52 – bringing in about $150 less in registration fees.
Organizers knew the ride wouldn’t be a huge moneymaker. Michael Yates, vice president of the COPS board of directors and a retired officer, said the ride is intended to draw attention to the programs.
“Our primary responsibility is to train and educate the community on crime prevention,” Yates said.
Events like the Bug Splat ride fit into COPS’ mission of making police more accessible, he said. Increasing visibility with something as large as a motorcycle ride or as small as a police officer parked in front of a shop fit into that goal, Yates said.
Police in uniform can often be intimidating, but Yates said he hopes people understand that they’re approachable.
“Who wants to talk to a Storm Trooper?” he said.
Mike Close and his wife, Cindy, rode the course together, with Cindy clinging to her husband’s back. Mike Close said he hasn’t done many benefit rides, but it feels good to support the local community through something he loves to do.
“It’s just nice to see the bikes and the camaraderie,” Cindy Close said.