The glowing torch held high, area and local law enforcement personnel Tuesday morning joined athletes from the Barton County Storm Special Olympics Team for the 2018 installment of the annual Torch Run.
Officers from Pawnee County and their cohorts from Great Bend and Barton County ran and walked with the team members to Veterans Memorial Park as a “Storm” banner and flashing police car lights noted their arrival. They, and a host of other volunteers, ended up at a shelter house for a picnic lunch and a few words from run organizers.
The officers are honored to take part in the event, said Great Bend police officer Jasmine Bell, who has coordinated the local run for two years and participated for four. “It’s a good thing to do.”
“It was a good turnout and it went pretty smooth,” Bell said. She also helped with a fundraising effort that garnered $800 for the Storm.
Each year, officers from around the state take part in the Torch Run in a lead-up to the Special Olympics State Track and Field Tournament in Wichita. This year’s meet begins with opening ceremonies Friday night, and competition Saturday and Sunday, all at Maize South High School.
There are about 40 Storm athletes taking part.
According to specialolympics.org, the Torch Run began in 1981 when Wichita Police Chief Richard LaMunyon created the concept. He thought the Torch Run would help law enforcement be active in the community and support Special Olympics Kansas.
In 1983, LaMunyon presented the program to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. They decided to endorse Torch Run and became the “Founding Law Enforcement Organization.”
With the IACP’s support, LETR became the movement’s largest public awareness and fundraising group for Special Olympics.
There are over 97,000 law enforcement members participate annually in communities around the globe.