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If you go

- What: We Ride to Provide’s 6th Annual Georgia K9 Memorial Event
- When: Saturday, May 31, 8 a.m. registration and live auction; 10 a.m. memorial ceremony
- Where: Porterdale
- Cost: Donations welcomed

When a memorial escort was on its way to return K9 Sasha, a fallen police dog, to her home in Warwick, Ga., Holly Cripps noticed a white car had kept up with them for several miles. She saw a little girl, on her way from Roswell to Florida for a family vacation, holding up a white, handwritten sign from the window.

“RIP Sasha.”

Apparently, Bella, 10, her sister, 8, and their mother saw the escort and went on Facebook to find out what it was for. When she realized the vehicle was bringing a police dog to its burial, she was so moved she had to show her support. She has been standing outside the PetSmart on W. Crossville Road in Roswell every Friday and Saturday for  six weeks, raising awareness of and collecting donations for Georgia police dogs.

“Her mom said her world just changed,” Cripps said.

Cripps and her husband, Porterdale Police Lt. Jason Cripps, run the non-profit “We Ride to Provide,” which organizes an annual memorial, coming up on May 31, to pay tribute to fallen K9s in Georgia.

The memorial, changed this year from a motorcycle ride to a DJed event, will honor the 30 K9s who died last year, whether from natural causes in old-age retirement or in the line of duty. Sasha died in September 2012 from heat exposure after being left in a patrol vehicle for three days.

“It was a sad time. It was a trying time for the department,” said Warwick Police Chief David Morris. “We’re very glad it’s come to an end and were able to take her home and give her the proper memorial she deserves.”

Cripps, “police mom” to K9 Nina and K9 Beau, a retired golden retriever, and owner of two 6-year-old toy fox terriers, Gizmo and Scooter, said she is visiting Bella today at her school, Sweetwater Elementary, for a K9 demonstration. Bella has waited to tell Cripps how much she raised until now.

Bella’s fundraising efforts will help Cripps distribute first-aid kits for the dogs and any other operational costs or equipment police officers need for their canine partners.

“Thirty is more than we’ve ever had, but that may be because people know about us now, so we get calls instead of having to go find them,” Cripps said. “Because they don’t (always) go out in a line-of-duty death, people may not know they died, much less have a ceremony or remember them.”

She said a couple hundred people usually come out to the event and that she hopes motorcyclists still show up even though the ride will not happen this year.

“They served their state. They did their job,” Cripps said. “We want to make sure we thank them and let the handlers know we care about them.”

Darrell Everidge contributed to this story.