At the September Bassett Highway 57 Cruise In, 71 cars signed up to participate in a “Back the Blue” ride, with proceeds to benefit local law enforcement.
The money earned from the ride, which began at CrossPoint Church in Ridgeway and ended at the cruise-in in downtown Bassett, goes towards the benevolence fund for the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, Martinsville Sheriff’s Office, and Martinsville Police Department.
“We don’t use taxpayer funds to pay for some of the things that we do for our officers, and that’s what a benevolence fund is for,” Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper said. “I don’t care how little we get, every little bit counts. Because a lot of the time, even if it’s just a basket for one of our officers who may have lost a family member or somebody’s in the hospital, they don’t cost too much anyway. But it means a lot to those officers.”
The community’s support was voiced by a number of speakers.
Tim Stone, organizer of the event, estimated that this year’s ride beat last year’s participation by about 10 cars. Last year’s event raised $1,915.85, which was split between the three departments, he added.
Joe Bryant, vice chairman of the Henry County Board of Supervisors, was among the speakers.
“We do these rides to show the support that we have for our law enforcement in this area. Without the law enforcement in any area, it’s just amazing how chaos in the area would be,” he said, and expressed gratitude for local law enforcement efforts.
“If you look around the United States and also the world, how these other communities are actually trying to defund the police departments and you can see how crime has gone up in our major cities. In Henry County, our crime has been relatively reasonable,” Bryant said, and noted the daily risks to law enforcement officers.
“Every day they get up in the morning time and put on the uniform. They don’t know what they’re going to face during the day. It is one of those things to say, ‘I can walk out of my house, but I may not come back,’” he said.
Del. Wren Williams, R-Stuart, also voiced his support for law enforcement and thanked them for their work.
“We appreciate them very much, the work that they do. It is constantly thankless.,” he said. “This country has integrated, demonized, and made law enforcement the enemy. And we know they’re not the enemy, they’re the ones who stand between us and the enemies.
“I do everything I can in the House of Delegates to make sure they get the funding they need. We were able to increase funding this year, we were able to get more equipment, but now we need more people,” Williams said.
He also highlighted the current need for more officers in many departments and urged citizens to join the force.
“It’s a strong, productive career. It’s something to take pride in, just like all these beautiful cars. That’s the pride they take every day when they put on that uniform,” Williams said.
Draper expressed his appreciation to everyone who attended the event.
“We’re flattered. We’re very flattered that y’all honored us and our officers. It is a tough time right now for us,” he said.
Martinsville Police Lt. Doug Graham also thanked participants.
“I’m flattered and I’m awfully grateful for everybody that’s showing support for law enforcement,” he said.
Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said, “We’re always thankful for good communities here and in Martinsville City. We receive good support, community organizations, and good unity and fellowship.”
Perry also said that events like the ride help bring awareness to the work police do and the fact that much of the community supports them.
“There are people watching, you see them on the side of the road and media publicity,” he said. “Just reminding people that the police officers do a really tough job, a very important job, for the community and they make some really tough decisions in a split second. The vast majority of the community supports our officers, and things like this just unify them.”