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Charity bike run, car cruise set Saturday in Monessen

| Thursday, July 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
Monessen police Officer Chris Gray, left, K-9 Officer Aaron Thompson and Uri, prepare for a bike run on Saturday, July, 20, 2013. The event will starting at the Raven Athletic Association, Donner Avenue, Monessen, with registration starting at 9:30 a.m. The run begins at 11:30 a.m. and will finish at the Herman Mihalich Memorial Boat Launch where there will be food, entertainment and raffles.

Monessen police have adopted another cause for this year's charity bike run/car cruise: the Crawford Family Benefit.

Portions of the event's proceeds will go to help Kate Crawford, who was diagnosed in February with stage 4 breast cancer, which has spread to other parts of her body.

She is the wife of Rostraver police Officer Steve Crawford and mother of three young children.

“We wanted to reach out more this year and help any way possible,” said department secretary Deneen Pesi, who is on the event's committee. “The fact her husband is a police officer… we felt that was a perfect choice.”

The bike run starts 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Raven's Club at 252 Donner Ave. and ends at the Herman Mihalich Boat Launch for evening festivities, including live music. A rain date has been set for Aug. 3.

In addition to the Crawford family, proceeds will go toward maintaining Monessen's two K-9 units, which include Officer Aaron Thompson and dog, Uri, and Lt. Brian Vitale and four-legged partner, Ivo.

The value of police dogs has multiplied, Thompson said, as a heroin epidemic has swept into the Mid Mon Valley. Not to mention, harassing a police dog is now a serious crime.

“I've been kicked, I've been punched I've been spit on, and never got a single assault charge filed against the actor, but if you mess with Uri, it's a felony,” Thompson said, laughing. “They're police officers. I know we try to separate work from home. When it's time to go to work, (Uri) circles around three times and snaps into work mode.'

Monessen's K-9 units have assisted various neighboring communities as well as state police and have served in numerous cases of apprehension, drug detection and crowd control within the city.

However – while dog food is donated – the department assumes all costs for equipment, training, insurance, veterinary care and other costs.

“The K-9 fund is not taxpayer based,” Thompson said. “Having two K-9 units is rewarding, but it's also grueling hard work... and it gets expensive.”

The department will use any leftover money from Saturday's event for training where funding isn't available, such as cyber crimes, identity theft and phone scams targeting the elderly.

Assuming the weather cooperates Saturday, bikers and drivers will leave Monessen and embark on a 110-mile trip through the Mon Valley with short stops at Bud Murphy's in Connellsville and Roxy's Roadhouse in Fredericktown, among other destinations, according to Thompson.

Classic or muscle car owners can join the bikers on the run and, at the end point, they can show off their rides at the boat launch.

“It's our way of allowing other people to participate who don't have a motorcycle,” Pesi said. “Motorcycles and muscle cars go hand-in-hand.”

Registration for the bike run begins 9:30 a.m. at the Raven's Club, two hours prior to start time. Cost is $20 per person and includes food, drinks and entertainment at the end of the run.

When bikers return later in the afternoon to the launch area, classic rock group The Evans Brown Band will perform. There will be food, drinks and a half-the-take raffle.

Anyone not participating in the bike run/car cruise can still join the boat launch festivities for a $5 donation.

Checks can be made payable to Monessen Police Dept. Bike Run, 239 Donner Ave., Monessen, PA. 15062.

For more information, call the police department at 724-684-4620.

Rick Bruni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2635 or