The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Florida came through my county today. The Torch Run is in its 31st year of raising awareness and funds for the Special Olympics. Each year in Florida over 5,000 law enforcement officers from more than 300 agencies will carry the Flame of Hope on a 1,500 mile relay through 66 counties.
The Flame of Hope’s journey began March 26 in Escambia County and will finish on May 9 in Osceola County, in time for Opening Ceremonies to the Special Olympics Summer Games in Lake Buena Vista, FL on May 18.
For the last ten years or so, Bill has been my agency’s Special Olympics representative athlete. Each year, he greets us and thanks us for our participation. He is right up front at the photo ops and assists in handing off the torch to our department from the previous relay department. This morning, Bill told me how excited he is to be cycling at the Special Olympics Summer Games in May. Events hosted at the Summer Games include track and field, soccer, bocce, tennis, volleyball, cycling, and other special competitions.
It was a hot, humid, 85 degrees during our run. Our route travels about four miles from a middle school to an LE building. The pace was spirited at times this year since we had some fresh faces in our group, but as usual we kept it together and finished as a team.
Special Olympics raises funds through LETR t-shirt and hat sales and by individual and business contributions along the route. Special Olympians are athletes at least eight years of age with intellectual disabilities. There is no maximum age to participate in the Special Olympics. For those who register, Special Olympics training and competition are open to all persons with intellectual disabilities, regardless of the level or degree of the person’s disability or whether or not they have other mental or physical disabilities.
I have proudly participated in the Torch Run since 1996. It raises money and attention for a worthy cause. It has also been a source of camaraderie for those of us who look forward to the charitable run in the Spring. LETR is a chance for us to step outside our usual “business” and positively affect our communities in a different way.
There is still time for most of you to join in. Forty-four counties have yet to light the Torch. I can tell you, it is rewarding to be one of Florida Law Enforcement’s Guardians of the Flame.