Every year, members of the Reading Police Department Mobile Unit (known as the bicycle patrol) participate in The Road to Hope, a challenging 250+ mile, 3-day bike ride hosted by Law Enforcement United to honor officers who have died in the line of duty, and to ensure their surviving family is supported and not forgotten.
Established in 2011, the Pennsylvania Division of the organization arranges the annual Road to Hope Memorial Bicycle Ride, leaving from Reading, finishing in Washington, D.C.
To support the three Reading Police officer’s who will be participating in the event this Spring, Barbara and Dele Olaewe, owners of Pagoda Apparel, a Reading based custom t-shirt company, have teamed up with Reading Police Officer Gregory Zawilla, to create and sell custom printed t-shirts and hoodies as a fundraiser.
“We see officer’s out riding the street and many have also stopped in our store, so we have developed relationship with them overtime” said Barbara Olaewe. “When they came to us to talk about a holiday fundraiser, we jumped at the idea to support the department and the cause.”
Olaewe says the design processes was a collaboration between her and Zawilla. Set in the shape of a badge, the t-shirt logo showcases two cyclists, modeled after RPD officers, with the Pagoda and the Fire Tower. “The two landmarks are located on Mt. Penn which, overlook the City of Reading. To me, its similar to how the City of Reading Police Department looks out for the citizens of Reading” said Olaewe.
Officer Zawilla has been on the force since 1999, and joined the bike unit in 2016. “Since I’ve been on the job, we’ve lost two officers in the line of duty, and one Berks County Sheriff” he said.
Although the ride is physically demanding, Zawilla says he is proud to participate to honor officers who have died in the line of duty.
In addition to supporting the Road to Hope Bicycle Ride, funds raised for Law Enforcement United also support Project Active Armor, Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), The Officer Down Memorial Page, and Spirit of Blue Foundation.
Zawilla says each participant is expected to rise $1,500. “In preparation, we look at creative ways to raise the money other than just asking for cash. Last month, we held a Kaufman’s Chicken BBQ fundraiser where we sold 400 plates.”
When brainstorming fundraising ideas, Zawilla took note that his division didn’t have an official bike patrol shirt. “Most of the divisions have a shirt. We had them add the Pagoda and Fire Tower because once a shift, although not required, we bike up their for training” he said.
Proceeds of the fundraiser will go directly to Law Enforcement United. Olaewe’s goal is to sell 100 shirts. So far, she says they have sold roughly 55, with a steady stream of new orders daily.
Ending December 17, t-shirts and hoodies are available in a variety of colors, both in person (722 Cherry Street Reading, PA 19602) and online at: pagodaapparel.com/product-category/reading-police/.