County thanks those who thank first responders




TOURING—Ride for the Blue, which honors and raises money for first responders, was lauded by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors Feb. 28. The annual ride draws around 400 riders. Acorn file photo

TOURING—Ride for the Blue, which honors and raises money for first responders, was lauded by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors Feb. 28. The annual ride draws around 400 riders. Acorn file photo

When John Short and his friends from the local Rolling Thunder chapter staged the first Ventura County Ride for the Blue, it consisted of about 15 of them riding their motorcycles to a single police station to show their support for law enforcement officials.

It was during a time when police deaths incurred in the line of duty were growing and had doubled over the year before.

The inaugural 2015 ride was a departure from Rolling Thunder’s regular mission to support military veterans, especially publicizing the POW-MIA issue. But eight years later, the ride has become an annual county occurrence—and one that was lauded by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors last week.

During the board’s Feb. 28 meeting, District 2 Supervisor Jeff Gorell read a resolution honoring the efforts of Short and the accomplishments of Ride for the Blue, which has raised more than $50,000 to support law enforcement, firefighters and medical personnel.

“It’s about celebrating and supporting our first responders,” Gorell said of the ride.

HIGH PRAISE—Above, Ventura County Supervisors honor founders and participants of the Sergeant Ron Helus Ride for the Blue on Feb. 28. Photos by RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers

HIGH PRAISE—Above, Ventura County Supervisors honor founders and participants of the Sergeant Ron Helus Ride for the Blue on Feb. 28. Photos by RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers

Ride for the Blue is also about providing wellness resources, including mental health awareness and training.

A lot has happened since that first ride in 2015.

Directly affecting the county was the 2018 mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks. A gunman was responsible for the deaths of 12 people, including Ventura County sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus.

After the shooting, Short, a Thousand Oaks resident, added Helus’ name to the annual event. It’s now known as the Sergeant Ron Helus Ride for the Blue.

“Our first responders go to work every day knowing they may not return home to their family at the end of their shift,” Short told the supervisors. “While others run from danger, they run toward danger, just like Sgt. Ron Helus did that fateful night and many others have done before and after him across this great nation.”

To recognize those who responded both the night of the Borderline shooting and to the COVID-19 pandemic, riders now honor EMTs, doctors and nurses as well as law enforcement officers.

At right, ride organizer John Short speaks as he is honored for supporting and raising money for the county’s first responders .

At right, ride organizer John Short speaks as he is honored for supporting and raising money for the county’s first responders .

People speaking at the supervisors meeting, discussed the mental and emotional toll serving can take. It’s not just loss, they said. Sometimes officers face vitriol or even violence for the actions of others.

“As noted in the resolution, law enforcement has faced great scrutiny, rightfully so, from the actions of a very few that are causing harm to our profession,” said Sheriff Jim Fryhoff.

The sheriff said suicide is the highest cause of death for those in law enforcement.

“So being able to provide wellness for our officers so they can treat our communities well is incredibly important,” he said.

Although law enforcement has faced criticism in recent years and there have been calls to “defund the police,” the fundraising ride continues to grow.

Last year, more than 400 people took part in the ride. Beyond the money the event raises, this outpouring of support means a lot to first responders, said Ventura County Fire Chief Dustin Gardner.

 

 

“The supervisors provide support to take care of our own every day . . . but when somebody like John comes forward to create a ride like this—to bring police, to bring fire, to bring EMS, to bring all of us together—that’s impactful,” Gardner said. “The fact we have people like John willing to protect the protectors, that’s impactful.”