A former police officer on a crusade against cancer arrived in Statesboro Tuesday as part of a motorcycle ride around the United States.
Dean Shirey, on his Honda Goldwing, was provided full VIP treatment by members of the Statesboro Police Department and Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office, who flanked the rider with a presidential-style escort, on his way from Pembroke to Quality Inn in Downtown Statesboro.
A local chapter of the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club invited Shirey for a layover in Bulloch County as he continues “Cancer Ride America,” an effort to raise awareness and support for cancer research.
“I’m overwhelmed by the welcome,” Shirey said, upon arriving. “During my time on a police force, I’ve been part of the escorts for several U.S. presidents. This was my first time as the special guest, though.”
Shirey, a Washington state native, is nearly halfway through his 16,000-mile mission.
“I am doing a ride around the perimeter of the United States. I started in Point Roberts, Wash., came down the Pacific Coast to Mexico, and headed across the Southern states,” he said. “The reason is to help find a cure for cancer.”
Through his travels, Shirey hopes to raise money and awareness for what he considers one of America’s greatest challenges.
“My wife and I have lost many, many relatives to cancer. Through that process, we’ve learned that cancer truly is an epidemic in America today,” Shirey said. “I have talked to well more than 2,000 people, and whenever I am in a room, I ask people to raise their hands if they’ve been affected by the disease. Nearly everyone raises their hands, every time.”
He said a motorcycle trip around the country’s perimeter has always been a dream, but took on a new meaning a few years ago, when he lost his younger brother suddenly to cancer.
“My brother, as he was passing, told me: ‘I really wanted to go on that ride with you. But, now I can be that angel on your shoulder,’” Shirey said. “I decided to dedicate the ride to him, and it has evolved from that and taken on a life of its own.”
Shirey has partnered with the Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit based in Yakima, Wash., that works to develop reliable, innovative and sustainable solutions for critical health needs, according to the organization’s website, memfound.org.
Every dollar donated is provided to the foundation, he said.
“My wife and I are financing the ride 100 percent out-of-pocket,” he said. “Any donations that are received, down to the penny, help support the cause.”
People interested in donating can do so online at cancerrideamerica.org.
While in Statesboro, Shirey spent time with his Blue Knights International cohorts — the Blue Knights are a nonprofit fraternal organization made up of active and retired police officers who enjoy riding motorcycles.
The group swapped stories at a cookout Tuesday night and enjoyed breakfast together Wednesday morning before Shirey left for South Carolina.
Organization members provided the rider with a hotel room, in addition to the showy police escort.
“All of us in the club are connected on Facebook. (Shirey) posted that he was doing this ride to raise awareness for cancer,” said James “Bubba” Revell, a local member of the organization. “We saw this, and wanted to bring him in to Statesboro, Ga., treat him well, and sit down with him to hear some stories.”
“Everybody was really excited to bring him in and show off the town,” he said.
To date, Shirey has raised nearly $6,000 of his $10,000 goal.
Despite sadness over the fact that he’ll be away from his wife for their anniversary, he said the trip is a great experience.
“Overall, it’s been good. It has had its moments,” he said. “Every time I feel like I’m not having a good day, something like this (trip to Statesboro) happens and changes that.”
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.