Twenty years after a Morgan County sheriff’s deputy died while doing his job, a group of law enforcement officials riding across the state paid their respects.
The Illinois Concerns of Police Survivors organization held its tenth annual Cycle Across Illinois ride today to help raise money for Illinois families of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. The group left Alton this morning and stopped in Waverly en route to the state capital.
The group stopped to eat lunch at the home of the family of Deputy Craig Dorwart, who died April 5th, 1994 during a snowstorm near Franklin while en route to an undercover narcotics stakeout.
Among the riders was Pontiac Police Department patrolwoman Shawna Gilliam. This isn’t her first year riding, but it’s the first time she’s taken on the role of survivor. Her co-worker and friend Casey Kohlmeier and his police dog were killed by a drunk driver last October.
“I’ve been part of the group for ten years. I started out when they first started the ride, and I was just a support person. This is my fifth year of actually riding, and like I said, I’m taking on that new role of a survivor,” says Gilliam.
“There was nothing keeping me off the bike this year. I knew that I had to be here had to be here for him, hat to be here for Casey. This is my family these people mean so much to me, and being with them is helping me get through it,” she continues.
Other riders in the group of about 50 included Cook County sheriff’s police sergeant Patrick Donovan.
“It’s been great. A lot of good people around riding through, met a lot of great people, very supportive,” he says. Donovan says West Central Illinois is beautiful country. “Peaceful, quiet, the people are extremely friendly.”
The ride included a stop for the bikers at the grave of Craig Dorwart in Waverly’s East Cemetery. Dorwart’s son Keith, who was three years old when his father died, is getting ready to start a law enforcement position in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“It’s truly what the law enforcement family’s about. These guys didn’t know my dad, but they became part of the family. Some of them have lost officers as partners, some of the riders are family members of survivors as well, but to have these guys that have no connection to my dad ride in his memory and all the other officers really shows that the families aren’t forgotten, and the officers that are killed in the line of duty aren’t forgotten,” says Dorwart.
“The families have to go on, but the memories of those lost in the line of duty have to go on as well.”
Bikers left the area via the Waverly blacktop, going to New Berlin and taking Old Jacksonville Road to Springfield.
The ride continues to Chicago this weekend.