Community offers thanks to first responders at inaugural event


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The community gathered Saturday to celebrate first responders with motorcycles, food, drink, games and live music at the first BCS First Responder Appreciation event.

The Ranch Harley-Davidson was the site for the gathering, which benefitted the Brazos Valley First Responders Association. Attendees could explore police patrol vehicles and fire trucks, play fetch with a K-9 officer from the Texas A&M University Police Department and pay for a chance to dunk Bryan, College Station and Brazos County police and fire chiefs in a dunk tank.

Jeff Mills of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate is one of the event’s organizers, and he partnered his business with The Ranch Harley-Davidson and Aggieland Title Company to bring this festival-style celebration to B-CS for the first time.

“First off, I was looking for a way to reach out to the community,” Mills said. “It’s important to me, as I was a first responder for many years.”

Vendors sold snacks, drinks and sweets such as hand-spun cotton candy. Bands performed live in the Harley-Davidson parking lot, and kids were invited to play in bounce houses and on a small rainbow-colored train. In addition to the dunk tank, donation opportunities included a silent auction inside the Harley-Davidson store and T-shirt sales.

Mills has family connections with The Ranch and knew the motorcycle dealership makes many efforts to help law enforcement and others in uniform. Mills said he had hoped to raise $ 10,000 on Saturday, and though he has yet to calculate proceedings, halfway through the day’s festivities he had already seen many more attend than expected.

“I figure every penny raised is something the Association didn’t already have, and each year in the future we’re going to strive for more and more,” Mills said.

Melinda Lopez-Ortiz of Bryan is a regular customer at The Ranch Harley-Davidson, and she brought her daughter and nephew to enjoy the event. Her father-in-law is a police officer, and she said her children and nieces and nephews love to brag to other first responders about their grandpa.

“We like to come to events like the one they have here to see things they have to offer,” Lopez-Ortiz said. “There are always new events with new people to meet, and I like to do this with the kids.”

Lopez-Ortiz said she thinks it’s beneficial to have families meet police and firefighters.

“We should show that officers are just like us,” she said. “A lot of people are stand-offish considering the stereotypical way they talk about those who try to help us. This gives us a good perspective on what police are trying to do.”

While many in attendance were area families, others were first responders from the outer Brazos Valley and beyond. Police came in from as far as Montgomery and Conroe, united by their love of motorcycles and camaraderie between officers.

David “Gadget” Spittler, a Burleson County Sheriff’s Office deputy, stood chatting with David “Bogey” Ray, a Franklin police officer, as the two leaned against their bikes. Spittler and Ray are members of the Brazos Valley chapter of the police motorcycle club The Thin Blue Line. All members of the club are current or former law enforcement. The club meets at Back the Badge events and other celebrations such as the one Saturday.

“After the last few years of separation between the public and police, these kinds of events are desperately needed,” Spittler said. “This brings out camaraderie between us and the public. We’re here to take care of them, not make money, to be public servants. … Motorcycles serve as the ice-breaker.”

Ray said that as both an officer and a military veteran, a Harley-Davidson-centric gathering is the perfect destination for him.

“Here I can hang out with my brothers in blue and my ‘green’ family without skipping a beat,” he said.

Mills said he has every intention to work with The Ranch and Aggieland Title Company again to bring the event back in 2018.

“Appreciation means that we’re here to tell the first responders thank you,” he said. “It’s not just a fundraiser or a benefit. It’s a time for the community to come out and say thanks.”

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About Craig Ballantyne 19360 Articles
I love anything to do with Harley Davidson and have two beautiful children and a beautiful partner. In my spare time i like building websites and love anything to do with the internet.

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