ORLANDO, Fla. – This year, the United States of America celebrates 243 years of independence.
Through its Salute to Service special, News 6 is celebrating the men and women who make freedom possible, including Orlando police Officer Mark Levy, who has a natural calling for helping others.
After his time in the military ended, the Detroit native joined the Orlando Police Department. Levy currently serves on the downtown bike squad, which uses mountain bikes to patrol the streets.
"We can get around faster, we can get to calls faster and we're more of an ambassador for the city --you know, if people need directions or help," Levy said. "I tend to run into kids that are in downtown and I saw some kids that needed some help, so I kind of got through. One kid was having a little bit of trouble, so I worked with him. The last I heard, he was doing great and continuing on playing football and just not getting in trouble."
Levy said that experience led him to his other calling, which he pursues when he's off duty. Five years ago, Levy realized mountain biking could be a way to guide kids who are going down the wrong path, so he founded the nonprofit organization Tough Biker.
"We just get a group of the kids together that might need help or just need something to do, and a couple times a week, you know, we'll go out to the Orlando mountain bike park or Santos or the Wekiva Trailhead," Levy said.
It's a platform the father of two uses to mentor children and help them open up to other life experiences.
"When you're on a bike, you get to meet all kinds of people -- anywhere from CEOs to, you know, just. linesmen and they meet great, different number of people and they get to really interact with them and it can show them, just, other than the four blocks they live in. It can show them a different aspect of life," Levy said.
Levy hopes the children he mentors take advantage of his mission, especially because they live in a country that provides them with opportunities to achieve success.
"That's really what America was founded on -- our freedom to do what we want, to help others and to have the ability to make that change in our lives, so maybe me showing these kids a different aspect of what they can do, then they can realize they have the freedom to make that change and not be stuck in a rut," Levy said.