Retired NC cop finishes 4,200-mile bicycle trip for police suicide awareness
Christopher Lowrance's grueling trip has benefited Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit working to ride the stigma of discussing police mental health
Retired Sgt. Christopher Lowrance completed his journey on Sunday, according to WBTV.
By Gavin Stewart
GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — A retired sergeant of Gaston County Police Department has cycled more than 3,600 miles across the United States while raising money to combat suicide in the law enforcement profession.
Chris Lowrance retired in December 2020 with 28 years of service to Gaston County under his belt. He was also a volunteer firefighter at New Hope Volunteer Fire Department for 24 years.
Following retirement, he served as a school resource officer at New Hope Elementary until beginning his cross-country journey in Astoria, Ore. in early May.
On July 15, the former officer was eating breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Berea, Kentucky, ahead of a 70-mile trek. He’s now on the last two legs of the 12-segment bicycle route known as the TransAmerican Trail. He expects to reach the end of the TransAmerican Trail, located in Yorktown, Virginia, by the beginning of August.
Lowrance’s trip has benefitted Blue HELP, a nonprofit working to rid the stigma of discussing mental health in the law enforcement industry.
“It’s been rewarding, even though it’s been extremely difficult,” said Lowrance, who has biked in the rain, up and down mountains and in the hot summer sun for more than two months. Aside from relaxing for a few days with his wife and three children at Yellowstone National Park in June, Lowrance has hustled across the country to raise awareness for Blue HELP.
Lowrance – now 30 pounds lighter, tanner and boasting a big, bushy beard – saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time and has seen towns and landscapes that look much different than those of the East Coast states.
He has met current and former law enforcement officers, families of Blue HELP, fellow cyclists and a number of trail hosts who have taken Lowrance in so he can shower and enjoy a night’s sleep indoors.
“My goal was to set out and see the country and meet good people, and that’s all I’ve met,” he said. “It’s truly been amazing to see the kindness of people. They buy you a dinner, buy you a drink.”
Lowrance admits the first days of his trip were challenging at best. He doubted himself until a host in Mitchell, Oregon, convinced him to stick with the trek through day 15 to see how he felt then.
“Those first two weeks, I didn’t know if I was going to make it."
“On day 14, I felt like I was starting to get the hang of it,” Lowrance said. He originally set out with a supply trailer attach to his bike, but weight distribution problems pushed him to downsize and mail the trailer back to Gaston County.
He estimates he has reduced his load about 75 pounds since leaving Oregon.
“That made a tremendous difference.”
Lowrance will soon approach the Appalachian Mountains, which he expects will be another difficult portion of the journey.
Members of New Hope Volunteer Fire Department, as well as cyclist and Mount Holly Police Officer Robert Ellison, will meet Lowrance in Yorktown, Virginia, to ride back to Gaston County with him. Lowrance expects that trip will take about four days.
Lowrance will conclude his three-month journey at Gaston County Police Department.
Nearly 80 law enforcement officers have taken their lives this year, according to Blue HELP.
Around $30,000 had been raised as of July 15, which will be used by Blue HELP to provide suicide-prevention training to police departments, assist families who lost a loved one to suicide and send care packages to families and police departments.
His original goal was $10,000, according to Karen Solomon, co-founder of Blue HELP. Solomon believes Lowrance could exceed $42,000, which would equal to $10 a mile for the entire 4,200-mile trip.
“That’s 10% of our budget because we’re a small organization,” she said. “That’s a full year of care packages, half of one of our family dinners or a lot of free training.”
[Listen: Preventing police suicide]
However, Solomon believes Lowrance’s interactions with folks between the coasts exceeds the value of donations.
“He has met some of the families [we serve], and it's so important to them that he’s doing this because he’s showing them their loved one hasn’t been forgotten,” she said.
“He’s raising awareness to people who have nothing to do with law enforcement. People don’t understand the issue that suicide is in law enforcement until they talk to somebody [about it]. Chris is opening a lot of eyes.”
Those interested in keeping up with Lowrance's trip can join the Facebook group, "A Penny for Their Thoughts."
Those interested in Lowrance can donate funds to Blue HELP by visiting bluehelp.org/a-penny-for-their-thoughts.
(c)2021 Gaston Gazette, Gastonia, N.C.