Angel Ride benefits injured officers, families

Angels on Harleys pulled into Jonesboro Saturday morning to save Christmas for the families of two Clayton County police officers, out of work after being hurt on the job in separate crashes.

Officer Mike Ward's duty to protect and serve came to an abrupt halt, on Sept. 14, about 6 a.m., when he was hit while riding his police motorcycle.

"I was riding along McDonough Street and a woman did a U-turn in front of me," said Ward. "I have 100 fractures in my pelvis, and broke my left wrist in half."

Ward was on bed-rest for eight weeks, and was allowed to be up and moving just three weeks ago. The restrictions are a paradox to the 80-hour work weeks to which Ward grew accustomed.

"I am supposed to be using a walker," he said Saturday morning, clearly not on his walker. "I have to sleep with a brace on my arm, it hurts to move my wrist."

His wife of 17 years, Shannon Ward, could only shake her head at her husband's stubbornness. "You can't tell him anything." she said.

They have two daughters, Carmen, 13, and Cassie, 10. Shannon Ward works as an office manager, but said the family relies on Mike Ward's side jobs to get them through Christmas. The Christmas Angel Motorcycle Ride presented the family with gifts during a reception Saturday morning at the Clayton County Police Department.

"With the accident, we've lost $1,500 a month," said Shannon Ward. "The extra jobs he takes helps with Christmas money and helps to make ends meet. This will help a lot."

Fellow Clayton County K-9 Officer Travis Fox feels Ward's pain. Fox was seriously injured on Oct. 3, when he crashed his patrol car in response to a home invasion call. Fox's K-9 unit, Lakota, was also injured and was forcibly retired from duty. Through an agreement with the county, the Fox family took him in and cares for him.

Fox and his wife, Corey, also have two children, MacKenzie, 9, and Wyatt, 7. Neither injured officer has returned to work.

The Angel Ride was started about 15 years ago by Rev. Norman Schneller to benefit a family in need at Christmas. Schneller often calls his son, Clayton Police Officer John Schneller, for advice on which needy family to help.

"When my dad called this year, I told him we need to help out a couple of police officers' families," said Schneller.

About 30 bikes from Harley Owner Riders, and the Henry Baptist Church in McDonough, coordinated Saturday's ride. About 70 riders crowded into the police department's meeting room to deliver the gifts to the families.

Glenda Levy, who owns Galaxy Homes, with husband, Ed Levy, said she was happy to help out the Fox family. The Levys also are bikers.

"We first met Travis when he came to our house on a false burglary alarm," she said. "He came to the door, saw our bulldog puppy and we bonded. He and Corey drop by with the kids to see us, we've been friends ever since. They're good people."

MacKenzie Fox brought tears to the bikers' eyes when she silenced the room to speak. "I just want to thank you for everything you've done for my dad," she said. "Thank you for all the gifts."

The Ward family also expressed gratitude.

"This is very humbling to see you all out there helping us," said Mike Ward.