Deputy William Nelson of the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office wears wristbands with the names of police officers who have died in the line of duty or on the job. The recognition was part of Law Enforcement United’s The Road to Hope bike ride he participated in May 10-12.

PARIS — Oxford County Sheriff’s Deputy William Nelson always considered himself a runner, but after participating in Law Enforcement United’s The Road to Hope ride last year, he said he’s now a cyclist through and through.

For the past two years, Nelson has been a part of the Cape Mayhem cycling team for Law Enforcement United, an organization honoring police officers who have died in the line of duty and providing support for their families.

Nelson said besides raising money for fallen officers’ families, each rider gets to represent a fallen officer by affixing a flag with the officer’s name to the seat of their bike.

This year, Nelson rode for Sean A. Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology officer killed in 2013 during the Boston Marathon bombings, and Bill Williams, a former Oxford County Sheriff’s deputy who died of a heart attack on the job in 1989.

Nelson’s team, Cape Mayhem, is named after Cape May, the New Jersey town where he grew up. Nelson was was invited to join the 11-member team last year by his childhood friend, Dave Douglas, a police officer in Cape May. 

Douglas’ father, David, was killed Feb. 18, 1994, in the line of duty.

Nelson said Douglas’ invitation left little time to train.

“I was always a runner, so I had to borrow a bike and train as much as I could,” Nelson said. “Since it was early spring in Maine, the terrain wasn’t great, so it was tough to find a place to train.”

The Road to Hope ride was held May 10-12 and ended at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., as it does every year.

“This year, we started in Atlantic City and rode to Rehoboth, New Jersey, on the first day,” Nelson said. “On the second day, we rode from Rehoboth to Annapolis, Maryland.

“On the first day, the wind was howling, which made it tough to ride at times,” he said. “The second day started off OK,” but it was “52 degrees out in a downpour, and some of the guys started getting hypothermic.”

“The third day was all hills,” Nelson said with a laugh. “You’re riding up and down, and you’re exhausted since it’s the last day. It was a tough ride.”

This year his wife, Keri, served as a support rider, which made the 2017 ride more special, he said.

The couple met while Nelson was attending Unity College in Unity, Maine. After graduating, he worked for the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, the Mechanic Falls Police Department, and joined the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office in 2006.

Along for the ride this time, Keri and other support riders do everything they can to make things comfortable for the cyclists, including providing snacks, lunch and ice water at the break points, and making sure the hotel rooms are ready when the riders finish for the day.

“She said it was a lot of work,” Nelson said.

Once at the memorial, each rider received a bracelet with the name of the officer they were riding for on it. They presented the bracelets to the fallen officers’ family members who were there. Nelson said he hopes to deliver his bracelets to the Collier and Williams families in the near future.

To support fallen officers’ families, each rider is required to raise at least $1,500.

Of the $600,000 raised this year, $450,000 was given to Concerns of Police Survivors, a nonprofit organization that provides resources to the survivors of fallen police officers. Another $100,000 went to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a website dedicated to honoring and recognizing officers who have died in the line of duty, and $50,000 went to the Spirit of Blue Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on promoting public awareness of the importance of safety equipment and training needs for police officers.

Nelson said the ride shows people the positive side of law enforcement that “isn’t always in the news nowadays.”

“It seems like people only see the negative stuff on the news, and it can seem like there’s only negative things out there,” he said. “When you’re riding down those streets, you pass people of every color, ethnicity and nationality, running out to cheer you on and give you a high-five as you pass. It’s amazing to see the support out there.”

While this year’s ride was tougher, he plans to do it again next year.

“I love it,” Nelson said. “I’ll do it for as long as I can ride a bicycle.”

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Oxford County Sheriff’s Office Deputy William Nelson, left, rides with the Cape Mayhem team in Law Enforcement United’s Road to Hope bike tour to honor officers who died in the line of duty. It was the second year Nelson has participated.


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