MINDEMOYA – They came from across the province, from communities large and small, to honour one of their own and all those in law enforcement who have fallen in the line of duty. This year, the 700 kilometre national Ride to Remember was cancelled due to pandemic restrictions, but the OPP cycling team that usually takes part stepped up with a special ride of its own honouring Marc Hovingh, a Manitoulin officer who was killed in the line of duty last year.
The Marc Hovingh Memorial Island Ride began on Saturday, September 18 at 8 am, heading out from the parking lot of the Mindemoya Missionary Church (where Constable Hovingh and his family are parishioners) and following a number of routes, the longest of which clocked in at over 140 kilometres (although officially slated as 136). A 33 kilometre route provided opportunity to follow along the paved shoulders of Highway 551, ideal for families with lots of rest stops. The 68-kilometre Green Bay route offered paved shoulders along Highway 551 and Highway 540 but included plenty of hill climbs and cardio enhancing opportunities. The 136-kilometre Manitowaning ride offered a real challenge along the paved shoulders of Highway 551, Highway 540 and Highway 6.
OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique, himself an avid cyclist, was in it for the long haul and provided impassioned words of welcome for both the law enforcement cyclists and members of the general public who joined the ride.
“Today is a very important day for us,” said Commissioner Carrique during an interview with The Expositor before the ride. “We are here to celebrate the life of Provincial Constable Marc Hovingh who was tragically killed in November of last year. Today is really about remembering not only the sacrifice he made, but the contribution he made to his community. It’s about celebrating his life and today we will be giving back to the community to ensure that the legacy of his service continues.”
“We are so pleased and honoured and feel blessed that Lianne Hovingh and her family allowed us this opportunity to return to the Island,” he said during his initial address. He recalled the welcome the OPP received “with open arms” and the love shown by the community which lined the streets, which displayed blue ribbons, who offered OPP members support and wrapped their arms around the Hovingh family and the officers for the difficult job they do.
“Today we recognize that sacrifice, but we celebrate his life,” he said. “I can tell you with certainty that Marc prevented other serious injury and potentially death. He is truly a hero.”
The commissioner noted that on this day the hand of God embraces the Hovingh family and members of the law enforcement community. “No matter what is before us, we can persevere,” he said.
The commissioner went on to recognize the organizing committee, including Derek Needham, Rob Kobayashi, Adam Belanger and “especially Steve Redman, the local representative. Thank you so much for pulling this together, we could not have done this without you.”
Among the background items were the cruiser bearing Constable Hovingh’s badge number and support vans sporting commemorative blue ribbons celebrating his life.
The 112 cyclists set out on their rides, with members of the famed OPP Golden Helmets riding before and after the riders to help ensure safety of the riders.
Upon return to the church, a group of women handdrummers provided welcoming and honour songs for the riders and the Hovingh family. A number of presentations were made to Ms. Hovingh and her family, including a painting from the OPP running team, a woodburned plaque from OPP Youth Foundation sponsor Futurecom president Paul Halinaty and a commemorative jersey.
Ms. Hovingh in her turn presented the riders with a special commemorative medallion coin, one of only three sets given out by the OPP to mark special efforts on the part of OPP members.
Ms. Hovingh was wearing a blue ribbon skirt that had been made for her by her colleague, Sandra Peltier of Wiikwemkoong. Ms. Hovingh recalled driving to work on a Monday, asking herself what she was doing, tears streaming down her face. When she arrived the skirt was sitting on her desk. The skirt provided her with the strength to get through the day, and the knowledge that God was with her and her family. It was this skirt that formed the basis for the design of the special jerseys donned by the cyclists.
“I want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts—this is so beautiful,” she said in addressing the cyclists. “We are so thankful.”