Andrew "AJ" Sperr was truly passionate about a couple of things: working on the farm and serving as a New York state trooper.
"He just loved being out on the streets and out in the community," said sister Judy Bennett.
Sperr was the youngest of their 11 siblings.
"We never thought we'd bury the youngest first," Bennett said.
He was shot and killed in Big Flats during a routine traffic stop, unaware that the two individuals in the car had just robbed a bank. It was about noon on March 1, 2006. He was 33.
"I was living here (when it happened)" Bennett said, sitting outside her lakefront Rouses Point home. "It was really tough for me to walk in the house and have my husband tell me my brother was killed."
Since that day, Bennett has found support from Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), a nonprofit organization that provides resources to help people affected by line-of-duty deaths cope with the loss. The program helps educate the public of the needs to support the law enforcement profession and also offers support by attending funerals and trials for those killed on duty.
So for the fourth year, Bennett will help raise money for the program by walking 25 miles in two days at the 25th-annual COPS Walk. The walk follows along the Potomac River outside Washington, D.C.
Typically walkers must raise at least $1,000 for the cause, but this year they are encouraged to raise $2,500. For the past two years, Bennett has raised nearly $4,500 and hopes to raise more this year.
What Bennett truly appreciates about the national organization is that it offers financial and emotional support to anyone affected by an officer's death, from siblings, children and parents to co-workers and friends. Week-long and weekend-long camps are offered throughout the year so survivors can meet with counselors and others like them for support and workshops. Those getaways, Bennett said, range from spouse-oriented, to camps for children.
"It's all paid for," she said. "You just get yourself there."
Bennett said she's more comfortable doing the walk, which takes place Oct. 9 and 10.
"The walk is for me, I recognize that whole-heartedly," she said. "It's for my healing.
"For me, truly the piece that touches me is that it walks along the Appalachian trail," she said, adding that she had walked along that trail in 1992, when Sperr was just a junior in high school. "Walking and hiking has always been an emotional treatment for me. It brings back positive emotional memories."
This year, Bennett will walk with a woman from New York state whose brother was killed on duty in New Hartford the day before Sperr.
"It's nice to know you're not alone."
People can donate to her fundraising efforts by visiting her website, e-mailing her or mailing checks.
She said it's important that this program remain.
"We want them here for future generations of survivors," she said. "We're not getting any less violent; we're getting more violent. There's people out there who just don't respect human life."
E-mail Michelle Besaw at: firstname.lastname@example.org