EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — There were grunts and groans galore Saturday inside CrossFit OTG, with the sounds gladly made by everyone working up a sweat.
The CrossFitters were participating in a Blue Lives Matter Community Strong event to raise money for wounded Atlantic City police Officer Joshlee Vadell and his family.
Vadell was shot in the head while responding to an apparent robbery outside the parking garage at Caesars Atlantic City on Sept. 3. He was released from AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus, 12 days later but faces a long recovery.
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Matt Rogers, president of Atlantic City Police Benevolent Association Local 24, said Vadell is in a rehabilitation facility and doing remarkably well, given the severity of his injuries.
While Vadell’s shooting rocked the Police Department, Rogers said, events like the one held Saturday, which was sponsored by CrossFit OTG and the D’Arcy Johnson Day law firm, show the support much of the community has for law enforcement. It’s the kind of support officers need at a time when they’ve come under extensive scrutiny for their actions, he said.
That support is also important for the families of police officers throughout Atlantic County, said people attending Saturday’s event.
Mercedes Logan is married to a retired Atlantic City police officer. They have a 22-year-old son who is a member of the force. She said she worries about her son’s safety each day he reports for duty.
“All the time,” Logan said, adding community support helps police families cope with those worries. “There are good police officers out there trying to make a difference and help people.”
On Saturday, Logan worked a booth at which people could have their picture taken in front of backgrounds with sayings such as “Stay Strong Josh” and “We’ve Got Your Back Josh.” The pictures were instantly posted to Vadell’s Facebook page so they could be seen by Vadell family members, who weren’t at the event.
More than 50 such messages were sent to the family during the first 90 minutes.
Erika Druding’s husband, David, is a police captain. She said their 6-year-old son is old enough to understand some of the problems facing police officers.
“The last question you want to hear is … ‘Will Daddy be safe today?’” she said.
Erika Druding, who participated in some of the CrossFit events, called the fundraiser “awesome.”
David Druding said Vadell’s shooting affected police around the region. The number of law-enforcement agencies represented Saturday showed the support those officers have for each other, he said.
“Everyone comes out to support everyone else,” he said.
Law firm member Pat D’Arcy said organizers were thrilled with the turnout. About 90 people pre-registered, and many more showed up Saturday to compete.
“It’s a good way to get the community out,” he said.
The amount raised was unavailable. A GoFundMe page called This Blue Life Matters has exceeded its $100,000 goal.
Rogers said the family is being helped by multiple charities.