RICHMOND, Va. – The Spin Mafia bike group gathered Sunday morning to ride in honor of one of their founding members, Virginia State Police Lt. Jay Cullen.
Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates were killed when a Virginia State Police helicopter crashed into a wooded area near a home on Old Farm Road outside Charlottesville last weekend.
News of the tribute ride was posted on the group's Facebook page Wednesday morning.
"As we struggle to process the tragic events of the past week, we will begin to heal in many forms. One such way is getting out on the bike we all love and honoring a great man, true friend and original Spin Mafia member," Don Vito posted. "While there will be more formal memorial rides in the future, let's all get together this Sunday 20 Aug to Ride For Jay."
Suzanne Tharin said the group normally rides every Saturday, but could not because many members attended Cullen's funeral.
"This group of cyclists are continuing to work through their grief with the loss of their dear friend," Tharin said.
Joe Panella, one of the group's founding members, said 70 riders took part in the 53-mile ride.
"Great show of solidarity,"Kevin Dintino posted on the group's Facebook page. "I am proud and privileged to be part of such a great group of people. It is truly amazing to see the outpouring of support and emotion for a fallen member!"
Don Vito posted that he was completely blown away by the turn out for their fallen brother.
"Our Spin Mafia family never ceases to amaze me in their devotion to each other," Vito said.
Founder: Cullen always brought riders back safely
Panella said Spin Mafia has been teaching young riders the etiquette of bike racing for 10 years and that Cullen was an integral part of that training.
"He would always go back and make sure that any riders that were not with the group," Panella said. "He would go back and get them and then bring them back safely. "
Panella said the group is planning a special uniform or kit in Cullen’s honor.
“One arm band will have his rank and his full name. The other arm band will have a black band on it," Panella said.
The front and back of the kit will feature mountains in shades of blue, to show Cullen's love of mountain biking, along with a helicopter silhouette.
Panella said proceeds from the uniform sales will be donated to the Cullen family.
How you can help
If you would like to make a donation in Cullen’s memory, you can mail a check to the state police emergency relief fund in his name:
The Virginia State Police Association
Emergency Relief Fund
6944 Forest Hill Avenue
Richmond VA 23225
NOTE: Place “Lt. H. Jay Cullen” in the memo line