What started in 2011 with two guys from Jim Thorpe pedaling in a charity bike ride from Philadelphia to Atlantic City, N.J. has spawned one of the largest teams to ride in the annual “Ben to the Shore” bicycle ride (formerly the Tour de Shore).
The team rides in the memory of fallen officers, two in particular: Trooper Joshua Miller, a Pennsylvania State Police officer with the Swiftwater barracks who was shot and killed on
June 7, 2009, and Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II, 38, who was killed in an ambush on the Blooming Grove Barracks in Pike County in September 2014.
Many team members also have a sticker with badge number 4699, in honor of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner who was killed in the line of duty on December 9, 1981.
While the Ben to the Shore’s doesn’t normally reach Jim Thorpe with donations, Team Captain Mike Dugan, a Sergeant with the Pennsylvania State Police, often tells of an email he received in 2014 after the death of Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II. Before Dugan could even reach out to the organization, founder Mark O’Connor contacted him.
“Our footprint has always been the greater Philadelphia area to the Jersey shore, but I asked the board if we could extend our reach in this case,” O’Connor said. “I didn’t even need to get 10 words out and the board unanimously approved a $5,000 donation to the family.”Another organization that the group works closely with, the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, reached out to O’Connor to see if they could also help Dickson’a family. The foundation presented a check for $60,000 for Dickson’s two children.
Other local charitable organizations have also benefitted from the Jim Thorpers and Ben to the Shore. Some of the groups include, Carbon County Special Olympics, St. Lukes Dental Van, Dylan and Gavin’s Rainbow, the Bo Tkach Foundation and the Carbon County Masons who use the donation to buy bicycles for needy children.
The team holds several fundraisers throughout the year. Several restaurants around the County welcome the Thorpers on special nights were portions of the proceeds go to the team. The team holds a large basket raffle each year with baskets donated by riders, local companies and supporters.
A raffle for a grand prize of a wine pairing dinner at Macaluso’s Restaurant for 10 people is also a popular fundraiser each year.
They even have a Wine and Wheels fundraiser at Blue Lizard Winery where the Thorpers have their own wine.
The group also supports a scholarship fund in honor of designer of the team’s jerseys, Doug Rontz, who passed away in 2016. Rontz is also honored with a remembrance on the back of the team’s jerseys: “Doug Rontz 1957-2016 Forever a Jim Thorper.”
When the Thorpers ride into Atlantic City on the day of the ride they are greeted by signs, cowbells, cheers and smiles from the greatest support team and cheering section in the entire ride.