Mother Nature, the Chester County Sheriff’s Office, police departments from one end of Pennsylvania to the other, and members of the public successfully collaborated on Sunday, July 22, to stage a massive fundraiser.
A convoy of nearly 150 motorcycles and a handful of law-enforcement vehicles pulled out of the Government Service Center in West Chester about 11:30 p.m., committed to a singular goal: supporting Chester County Deputy Sheriff Jeff DiVito.The 17-year deputy received a cancer diagnosis last month, prompting his colleagues to brainstorm about ways to assist him. DiVito’s graduation from the Philadelphia Police Training Bureau’s motorcycle course last year – fulfilling a long-term dream to join the Sheriff’s Office Wheels Unit – ultimately inspired the creation of Jeff’s Battle Ride.“Jeff has always been -- and remains -- a very valuable member of the Chester County Office of the Sheriff,” said Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh. “He’s beloved by all, he’s highly respected, and highly regarded.“We are with him all the way in this brave battle,” the sheriff continued. “And I’ll tell you: Jeff will battle and Jeff will win.”Participants paid $20 per bike to join the group, which enjoyed a scenic, circuitous journey from West Chester to Exton with assistance from the neighboring police departments. Many of the participants, such as officers from Philadelphia and Upper Darby, did some traveling before the event even began, but none more than three officers from the Pittsburgh Police Department.The Pittsburgh trio had driven to Chester County the night before. They said they had seen an online flyer about the event and wanted to help; the fact that they didn’t know DiVito didn’t matter.In contrast, many of the 29 riders from the Oxford Police Department have known DiVito for some time, a relationship that motivated Oxford Field Training Officer Chris Coverly and Officer Adam Weaver, a former deputy sheriff, to organize a t-shirt initiative.Coverly said they sold out their order of 80 shirts and ended up raising more than $2,000. “The community really responded well,” he said.Many of the people who purchased the shirts sported them at the Pour House, producing a flurry of additional requests. Coverly said he gave the production information to DiVito’s brother Dave so he could make another order. “By the time I left around 2, it looked like he had a couple hundred names,” Coverly said.Despite dire predictions of bad weather, the storms held off until long after the cycles had arrived at their destination: the Pour House restaurant in Exton. In fact, the bikers even saw some sunshine.The restaurant’s owner had agreed in advance to donate 15 percent of the afternoon’s proceeds to DiVito. Well over 100 people were on hand when the motorcade arrived, a number that continued to increase. The response prompted the restaurant to extend the promotion for the remainder of the day.In addition to those proceeds, deputy sheriffs, who set up a GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/JeffDivitosBattle, conducted a 50-50 raffle and a silent auction to help defray DiVito's medical costs.“The support and love here today is just overwhelming,” noted Welsh.DiVito, who spent much of the day amazed by the enormity of the outpouring, agreed. “I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart,” he said.