Veteran Mark Levy served in the Air Force as a Security Police (MP) dog handler. Upon being honorably discharged, he became a member of the Orlando Police Department’s Blue family bringing his invaluable military experiences with him while later developing new skills in the civilian sector.
Most folks know that a law enforcement officer wears many hats. One day the job may entail being a social worker, counseling youth against wayward behavior; a negotiator, balancing the art of a plea deal for a confession; a justice seeker, providing testimony to ensure conviction. All these actions serve to sharpen an individual’s career, adding future possibilities. In his present twelve-year police career, Mark was no different, except for beginning to employ the learned entrepreneurial abilities while on the job.
His compassionate nature for kids who “are in a tough spot with no control over their situation” combined with a love for mountain biking led him to a life-changing idea. Mark believes, “trying to give people a hand up is better than giving them a hand out”. His champion approach of “teaching them skills on mountain bikes to help overcome obstacles on the trail will give them the confidence to overcome obstacles in life” became the beacon for Toughbiker, the 501c3 he started in 2014.
While at Orlando PD, Mark started to raise awareness for his mountain bike mentoring program—one in which his desire is to bring into schools—in addition to incorporating his love for cycling into his first 50 mile cycle run in memory of fallen officers as a way of giving back to the law enforcement community. Preparation for the Toughbiker: Fallen Officer Memorial Ride began in November 2018 culminating in a successful turnout of over 110 cyclists on February 24, 2019.
For Mark, it was very humbling to have the support of registrants, volunteers, and family members. Some remained behind preparing food for the event’s completion; others led or followed the group, blocking streets and shouting encouragement as riders cycled against wind on local streets and highways.
The halfway point at a public supermarket parking lot presented the riders bananas and mandarins to release muscle tension, along with water for hydration. Within fifteen minutes, they were off again for the remaining 25 miles until they arrived at the finish line where music, food, and eager volunteers cheered their arrival.
Indeed, Mark’s core belief to, “make a difference everyday” was more than met as those who gathered shared in camaraderie and celebratory conversation. One can expect greater things to come in the near future from the individual who simply stated wants, “to do my small part”.
If you would like to learn more, check out https://www.toughbiker.com/
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Julia Torres earned a Master of Science in Homeland Security with a certification in Terrorism Studies from Fairleigh Dickinson University; a Jersey City State College, K-12 Teacher Certification; and a Bachelor of Arts Visual Arts from Rutgers University, where she enlisted in the Army Reserves. Upon graduating Rutgers, she began a career in law enforcement, and later volunteered for the Gulf War. Once home, she worked undercover until retiring in 2001 due to a Gulf War illness. Since then, she has done volunteer work, acted, and written two non-fiction books.