CLEVELAND - Sunday, Cleveland Police officers, along with students and their parents, set out on a 20 mile bike ride across the city, each mile creating new memories with officers, hoping to inspire the next generation to wear blue.
"It's about our kids being able to trust our police officers and then our police officers also establishing relationships with our kids," said Angela Bennett, the Director of Development for the Cleveland Police Foundation.
Several dozen officers helped kick off the first annual "Ride 2 Achieve Challenge Program," a citywide bike tour and partnership with the Cleveland Police Foundation, Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Safe Routes to School. The program celebrates the hard work of students along with their attendance and good grades by rewarding them with bicycles and new helmets.
"Just to interact with the police let him know it's not what everybody say," said parent James Stewart, who biked with his son. "I want to teach him, let him know it's all right, the police are there to help."
Fifteen bicycles were awarded to students at several schools across the city, including Louis Agassiz Elementary, where Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, State Rep John Barnes, Jr. and other local elected officials congratulated students on their accomplishments.
"They can teach me knew things that I never knew," said student Lamont Brown, 11, about the event.
The ride served as a bridge between officers and the communities they serve, inviting parents and students on a day-long journey towards better understanding.
"Hopefully in the future, whenever he sees an officer he [student that won the bike] remembers this moment," said Police Commander Johnny Johnson, of the Bureau of Community Policing. "The most important thing is not necessarily that they believe or they want us to be friends, but they need to know and understand that if they need help they need to come to us."
Riders took off at noon and stopped for short breaks at several schools along the way. Free hair cuts, water and snacks were offered to students at Mound Stem Elementary. Community policing is already making an impact on students looking to enter the police academy.
"This is good... you don't get to show what the officers are doing that's good always what's bad," said Cleveland Police Explorer Tyrence James.
In the spring Bennett says 500 students will have the opportunity to earn a bike from the foundation. The bicycles will be purchased from locally owned Fleet Bike Shop.
To donate towards the cost of those bicycles click here.