Advertisement

Hagerstown man likes to give back when possible

February 02, 2012|By SHADAE PAUL | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Mike Barnhart, left, of Maryland Chapter II of the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, is seen here in 2008 with club members Bill Broussard, Damion Broussard and Ed Herring presenting a $7,000 check to Karen Highbarger, second from left, mother of slain Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Nicholson. The donation is from proceeds of the 2008 motorcycle ride and fundraiser honoring Nicholson. This year the ride will be called the Fallen Officer Memorial Law Ride.
Herald-Mail file photo

File photo



Mike Barnhart, left, of Maryland Chapter II of the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, is seen here in 2008 with club members Bill Broussard, Damion Broussard and Ed Herring presenting a $7,000 check to Karen Highbarger, second from left, mother of slain Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Nicholson. The donation is from proceeds of the 2008 motorcycle ride and fundraiser honoring Nicholson. This year the ride will be called the Fallen Officer Memorial Law Ride.


Some people leave an indelible mark on your life.



For Hagerstown resident Michael Barnhart, his colleague, Officer Christopher Nicholson was one of these people.



Nicholson was killed in the line of duty in 2007. His fellow officers will commemorate his life and service during the Fallen Officers Memorial Law Ride, an annual motorcycle ride organized by Barnhart.



Barnhart, 68, first met Nicholson at a diner in Smithsburg, the town in which Nicholson served.



"When you see another officer, you always say hello," Barnhart said.



They soon became friends and remained so until Nicholson was killed. Barnhart, who has been riding motorcycles for roughly 45 years, used his passion for riding as a way to remember his fallen comrade. He organized a memorial ride.



For the past four years in October, Barnhart has mounted his Harley-Davidson Street Glide with about 150 other active or retired police officers.



"The memorial ride is to honor him and his life and family," Barnhart said.



To participate in the ride, attendees pay $25, which covers the registration fee, a commemorative T-shirt and a meal at the end of the ride at The Improved Order of Red Men Conococheague Tribe 84 in Williamsport.



This year will be the fifth year the Fallen Officers Memorial Law Ride will be held. Formerly called Officer Christopher Nicholson Memorial Law Ride, the ride is an hour long with a police escort. Officers from all over Maryland and parts of Pennsylvania ride in to attend.



"People come with all different types of motorcycles. Some even ride trike motorcycles, which are three-wheel motorcycles," Barnhart said.



Befitting a memorial to a life well lived, the route passes by landmarks where Nicholson spent the best times of his life. The ride begins in Smithsburg, then passes by Children's Village of Washington County, east of Hagerstown, where Nicholson was an instructor.



"Then, we go through town to Blairs Valley where he used to hunt and fish with his brothers, father and family," Barnhart said. "We ride into Williamsport where he went to high school at Williamsport High School, then we ride by where he is buried. The ride ends at the Red Men Lodge in Williamsport where there will be dinner and door prizes."



Each year, the ride is sponsored by local businesses, which have previously included Harley-Davidson of Chambersburg, Pa., and the Red Men Lodge, among others. Portions of the proceeds go to Children's Village and to college scholarships for high school students who want to go into law enforcement.



"The Fallen Officers Memorial Law Ride means showing respect for an officer who has given his life to protect and serve. It is to honor all of the police officers who made the ultimate sacrifice," Barnhart said. "I have been carrying a gun for 25 years and it could have easily been me. You never know when you carry a gun for a living what is going to happen, whether you will go home that night."



Along with organizing the Fallen Officers Memorial Law Ride, Barnhart, a retired park ranger, is also president of the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club of Maryland and teaches a Law Enforcement Safety Program to second-graders at Children's Village. During winter months, Barnhart volunteers as a ski patrol at Ski Liberty.



"Mike has such a wonderful enthusiasm for what he's teaching and relates so beautifully to children. He is professional, knowledgeable and is truly an asset to the Children's Village program," said Brenda Donaldson, program director at Children's Village.



Barnhart also volunteers at C&O Canal National Historical Park, Catoctin Mountain Park and Antietam National Battlefield.



He said his inspiration for his work in the community and local parks are his wife of 47 years, Carolyn Barnhart, and his parents, who always encouraged him to try to give back when possible.



"When I was little, my mother would take me and my siblings out in the community to educate us about the history of the local community and got us involved in giving back," Barnhart said.



Barnhart's hope is that one day the rides will generate enough money to build a memorial for police officers who were killed in the line of duty in Washington County.



He also hopes the rides will show the value of serving the community and prove to be a testimony to Nicholson's legacy.



"I think we're keeping Chris' memory alive by doing the ride," he said.

Advertisement
The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|