Waunakee Police Sgt. Geoffrey Hutchinson has bicycled alongside fellow officers from Wisconsin in the Police Unity Tour the past two years, but training for this year’s 300-mile ride from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., was much more challenging.
Hutchinson, 48, underwent surgery in November to remove a brain tumor and has since been undergoing chemotherapy.
“I didn’t decide to ride until really late,” Hutchinson said. “I didn’t know how the treatments were going to go. I’m not going into this as strongly as I have the last two years.”
When the Tribune contacted Hutchinson in Philadelphia last week, he was gearing up to start the 65- to 90-mile ride the following day.
He and his fellow Wisconsin officers set out May 9 for the four-day journey to the National Law Enforcement Memorial site. A motorcade of 10 to 15 motorcycles would ride alongside Hutchinson and the others, blocking traffic and keeping them protected along the way.
In Washington, they would join the thousands of others bicycling to raise awareness for fellow officers killed in the line of duty – this year totaling 144 policemen and women.
Each officer raises funds to ride which go to the Law Enforcement Memorial.
“It’s a brotherhood kind of thing,” Hutchinson. “It supports the families directly.”
The cyclists wear bracelets with the names of the officers killed, which are presented to the deceased officers’ family members at the Memorial.
“It has a pretty profound impact on those who have lost somebody,” Hutchinson said.
Riding in the Unity Tour also has an impact on the participants.
“It’s good for morale. It rejuvenates the soul for continuing our policing careers,” Hutchinson added.
This year, as Hutchinson is battling cancer, the ride has been even more significant. He has been on leave from the Waunakee Police Department since the end of October and said he was feeling stir crazy.
“Training has given me something to look forward to. It’s helped keep me moving and kept me motivated. It’s given me the opportunity to do something positive,” he said.
For the past six or so months, Hutchinson has survived his own long ride. On Oct. 28, he began to experience stroke-like symptoms, he said, and that’s when his brain tumor was discovered. It was removed Nov. 2.
He then underwent 33 days of radiation and chemotherapy and will continue on a regimen of chemotherapy until next March.
“It’s a pretty important ride this year, that’s for sure, not knowing if it will be my last one,” he said.
His training has taken place mainly in his home. The surgery affected the portion of the brain that registers sight, so he’s lost peripheral vision. With difficultly seeing cars alongside him in the road, he has cycled outdoors only with a partner.
Hutchinson explained his eyesight is perfect, so depending on how his brain heals, his peripheral vision may return, and he has been working with specialists.
“The potential for that to regenerate is 50-50,” Hutchinson said. “They have seen some improvement, so that’s been good. It has been slight, but I will take anything I can get.”
While Hutchinson said he enjoys the fellowship of the Police Unity Ride each year, he’s mainly motivated by the families who receive support from it.
“I’ve seen the impact it’s had on families the last two years and how beneficial it is,” he said. “No matter what I’m going through, I haven’t had to lose anybody. It’s a pretty insignificant thing I can do to help those who have lost somebody.”