After hearing a brief “Thank You” at the city council meeting this past Monday in regards to the Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Kansas Special Olympics, I thought I would do a little research. I don’t recall seeing any write-up or pictures in the newspaper about this event.
Every year, Law Enforcement in and around Great Bend participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Kansas Special Olympics. If you are unsure of this program’s importance, I will begin by saying that this event all started back in 1981 and is still going strong.
To take it a step further, the law Enforcement Torch Run began to take shape after former Wichita Police Chief Richard LaMunyon saw a need to raise awareness and funds for the Kansas Special Olympics. Chief LaMunyon conceived the idea of the Torch Run as a way for local Law Enforcement to get involved with their communities and the Special Olympics. The idea of running the torch across the state of Kansas, in relay fashion and then converging those relays into their local Summer Games became a huge success and is now an event participated in all over the world.
For 2012, the torch, known as the “Flame of Hope” traveled across Kansas involving approximately 900 officers from more than 85 Law Enforcement agencies. The officers carried the torch throughout 28 Kansas counties, ending up in Wichita on Friday, June 1st for the 2012 Special Olympic Games.
This year, our own Great Bend area runners participated in several fundraising events and activities that allowed them the opportunity to get involved with athletes of our local Team “Storm” and the many staff and participants to support such a wonderful cause. Of those activities, Detective Heather Smith with the Great Bend Police Department, who is one of our Great Bend area runners and also the Law Enforcement Coordinator that covers the Barton County area for the Kansas Special Olympics, starts making preparations for this event earlier in the year.
This year, Detective Smith worked with Carole Edwardson in gathering athletes of the Special Olympics Team “Storm” and other participants and supporters, along with Pawnee County and Barton County runners in the East parking lot of the Brit Spaugh Zoo on Wednesday, May 30th.
After gathering at the Zoo, all participants enjoyed a Law Enforcement escort south down Main Street, complete with emergency lights and sirens! As they headed south, they ended in the 1600 block of Main Street where they gathered at the Rosewood Services Furniture Gallery for a BBQ and time to socialize. A big “Thank You” goes out to Tammy Hammond for use of the space!
The following day, Great Bend area runners joined backup at 7:15 a.m. to hit the streets and carry the torch from Great Bend to Hutchinson, meeting up with Rice County Law Enforcement along the way.
I would simply like to express a special thanks to not only the Great Bend Police Department and Barton County Sheriff’s Office for their continued support, but also to Detective Heather Smith of the GBPD, Patrol Sgt. David Smith and Deputy Richard Allen of the Barton County Sheriff’s Office and Instructor Randy Smith of the Barton Community College Criminal Justice Program for the four of them carrying the torch from Great Bend to Hutchinson this year, despite the continued decline in the number of volunteer officers all across the state of Kansas.
We appreciate all of your support and hard work throughout the year for such an amazing cause and I hope you know just how much of a difference you make in the lives of these Special Olympics Athletes and Participants!