BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (KDVR) — Law enforcement suicides have been described as an epidemic. One man is riding his bicycle across the entire country to raise money and awareness about this issue.
Christopher Lowrence started his 4,600-mile journey on May 2. He is riding the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail from Oregon to Virginia and then to his home in North Carolina.
“Yesterday was really hard. I rode from Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado, to Breckenridge. The elevation profile just about the entire ride is uphill. It was 71 miles. I was absolutely exhausted, took a shower, lied down on the bed. I was gone,” Lowrance said.
But it is for a good cause, one near to Lowrence’s heart. As a retired police officer, he decided to raise money for the non-profit organization “Blue H.E.L.P,” which helps families of officers who die by suicide — including an officer he once worked with.
“I don’t know what Dan was dealing with mentally or emotionally, but a couple of years ago, Dan took his life,” Lowrance said.
Blue H.E.L.P. was started in 2015. It is the only organization in the country that collects law enforcement suicide data and regularly supports families after a death by suicide. Their mission is the reduce stigma of mental health through education and advocacy.
“Many places when an officer dies by suicide, they put the blinders on and tend to forget that individual. We want to honor those officers and their families and continue to support those families and also prevent law enforcement suicide,” Blue H.E.L.P. advisory board member Brian Hill said.
Lowrance is raising money one penny at a time. He began to solicit donations in a Facebook group: a penny for a mile, a dollar sponsors 100 miles.
He surpassed his initial goals of $5,000, then $10,000 and is now up to a $20,000 goal.
“Those moneys are all donated — 100% goes to Blue H.E.L.P.,” Lowrance said.
He is also raising awareness on his ride.
“The stigma attached to mental health and seeking assistance — that’s what we’re trying to change,” Lowrance said. You don’t talk about it at work if things are bothering you. You try to deal with it yourself. There’s a fear of losing your job, fear of losing certification, not fit for duty, how do you provide for your family. It has to change with administrations at the departments, accepting their employees — which is their most valuable assets — are going to experience problems and going to seek assistance and try to get those things straightened out,” Lowrance said.
This hits home for Lowrance, after losing a colleague to suicide.
It’s a grueling journey, full of challenges, but Lowrance says it’s a refreshing change.
“I’m meeting good people. The perception you get in law enforcement over the course of a career is everything out there is bad. But to get out of it, come out into the real world and experience it firsthand — the good people are out here. It certainly changes my perception of how things are.”
If he stays on track, Lowrance will finish his journey in early August. if you would like to track him or donate to his cause, visit this website.