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Motorcycle ride benefits slain Roxbury correctional officer's children

June 23, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - They'll never forget the friend, co-worker and brother they lost in January 2006.

Through an annual memorial motorcycle ride, they've also vowed never to forget the five children that Jeffery A. Wroten left behind.

The third annual ride, held Sunday, was expected to raise about $5,000 for the children, said Donny Seibert Sr. of Falling Waters, W.Va., who organized the ride. That was the amount raised in 2007. About $9,000 was raised in the ride's first year.

Seibert is a retired correctional officer and worked at Roxbury Correctional Institution, where Wroten worked until he was killed by an inmate.

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The Martinsburg, W.Va., resident was 44 years old when he was killed.

"I'm doing it for (Wroten's) kids ... to raise money for them because he's not able to," Seibert said.

He was unsure how many people would turn out Sunday but said last year's ride drew about 400 riders on 300 motorcycles. Seibert said he hoped to at least match that Sunday.

The ride began south of Hagerstown at the entrance to Conservit Inc. off of Sharpsburg Pike and ended at the Martinsburg (W.Va.) Mall. Taking back roads, the riders were expected to travel at least 40 miles. At the mall, Seibert said participants could win door prizes, and there would also be a raffle and other ways to win cash and prizes donated from local businesses.

Most of Sunday's riders, and past participants in the memorial ride, have been correctional officers, police officers and friends of Wroten and his family, Seibert said.

John Beair of Williamsport is a correctional officer at RCI who worked with Wroten. Wroten was a correctional officer at RCI from October 2001 until his death.

Beair called Wroten a "nice guy" who worked a "miserable" shift. Wroten worked the midnight shift at the time of his death, and often greeted officers at the front desk when they arrived for work at 7 a.m.

"He always had a kind word for everyone," Beair said of Wroten. "He was always happy and he always talked about his kids."

Jeff Garvin of Hagerstown is a retired correctional officer from Maryland Correctional Institution, and said Sunday was the second memorial ride in which he participated.

"I'm a retired correctional officer and we sort of all stick together ... or try to," Garvin said.

Garvin also is the vice president of a local chapter of PRIDE, a motorcycle riding club for correctional employees. Mick Disdati is president of the group and said many of the 22 local members planned to ride Sunday.

"This is a special ride because he was one of us," Disdati said.

Scott Blundell of Hagerstown is a Frederick County (Md.) sheriff's deputy and said Sunday was the first time he rode in memory of Wroten.

Blundell, who only recently bought his motorcycle, said it was an "excellent benefit" for Wroten's family. Blundell even brought his son, Dalton Blundell, 7, along for the ride.

"It's to benefit the family and recognize the job that correctional officers do ... how dangerous the job is," the sheriff's deputy said.

Chris May of Hagerstown worked as a correctional officer at RCI with Wroten, and told his friend, Blundell, about the ride.

"It's a ride to show unity and benefit the kids," May said.

May began working at RCI about a year before Wroten. The two worked the same shift before Wroten switched to the midnight shift.

Preston Weller of Needmore, Pa., borrowed his daughter's motorcycle to ride in Sunday's memorial. Weller, a correctional officer at RCI, worked with Wroten.

"I enjoyed working with him," Weller said. "He was quite a guy."

Beair said those who participate in the memorial ride each year would like to see more turn out to raise more money for Wroten's children.

Garvin said he also would like to see more riders from the community participate -- not just correctional officers and police officers.

"He gave his life to protect the public," he said. "It's not only a correctional officers' loss ... we lost a brother."

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