Police officer’s three-month, 4,000-mile bike ride for mental health finishes in Gaston County
After months of sleeping in a hammock, eating Ramen noodles and spending a lot of time alone, the retired sergeant returned home from a heartwarming journey.
GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - A retired Gaston County police officer, who has biked for more than 4,000 miles across the country over the past three months, had a joyous finish to his journey on Sunday.
Retired Sergeant Christopher Lowrance’s journey started in May, with the purpose of bringing awareness to mental health and suicide among first responders.
On May 2, he started the trip with a plane ride to Portland, Oregon. After a quick stop nearby in Astoria - he was on his way.
After months of sleeping in a hammock, eating Ramen noodles and spending a lot of time alone, Lowrance returned home from a heartwarming journey.
After nearly three decades as a police officer, Sgt. Lowrance wanted to finish his career by bringing attention to the mental health issues that plague the law enforcement profession.
He decided to ride his bicycle cross-country to raise awareness and money for an organization called Blue H.E.L.P. - the only organization in the country that tracks law enforcement suicide year over year and assists families in the aftermath.
According to Blue H.E.L.P., more than 80 officers have died in 2021. Last year, 172.
“Initially it was for me to have a reset after law enforcement, but I realized it was bigger than me,” said Lowrance.
Lowrance says his late father-in-law was his motivation to keep cycling. As far as this TransAmerica trek, his wife was the final push he needed. His bicycle is named LD.
“I named the bicycle after my father-in-law,” he added.
Lowrance spent 28 years putting away criminals for the Gaston County Police Department. He retired Dec. 2020, working through May as a resource officer at New Hope Elementary School.
In preparation for the journey, he says he realized the need to bring awareness about a growing problem.
“Mental health in a law enforcement profession is such a taboo topic. You’re afraid maybe you, ‘lose my job or they find me unfit for duty,’ so people don’t talk about it. And that’s the thing that really needs to change so people are okay with getting professional help and trying to deal with the issues bothering them,” he said.
With the daily grind of a law enforcement officer, Lowrance says a lot of trauma can happen.
“I call it compound trauma. You go see different scenes, see different circumstances whether it be homicides, or abused child, or domestic violence situation. All of those things, I try to tell the new guys those are little pieces. Throughout your career you pick up little pieces even if you don’t realize it,” he said.
His initial goal was to raise $10,000 to support families in the aftermath of a suicide and assist with awareness and prevention programs; he has raised over $46,000.
This three-month journey brought many strangers to his side. It also helped start the conversation about mental health of first responders, raising money for Blue H.E.L.P.
In addition to meeting with police departments along the way, Chris was able to meet with some of the families who lost an officer to suicide.
“What I do, if it touches one police officer, one firefighter, EMS or dispatcher, that keeps them from making the decision of doing something to themselves, then this 4,700-mile journey of mine has been worth it,” Lowrance said.
He finished his journey with a full escort at the Gaston County, NC, Police Department on Sunday, Aug. 1 around 2 p.m.
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