By Mary O’KEEFE
The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics made a stop at La Cañada Flintridge’s Memorial Park on Wednesday.
The Olympian Torch Run began in Athens, the historical home of the Olympics competition, and is now at its final run through Southern California and will light the way for athletes at the Los Angeles Coliseum to start the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony on Saturday.
Lt. Bruce Felton of the Solon Police Dept. in Cleveland, Ohio and athlete Nigel Davis from Jamaica held the torch. They first met at Mayor’s Park and ran to Memorial Park where a ceremony was held.
La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Dave Spence welcomed the athletes, law enforcement and supporters to the city.
“Special Olympics is very important to the city and to me; I have two sons with disabilities,” he said.
He thanked the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run for the special recognition to La Cañada.
Anthony Portantino was the master of ceremonies; he stopped and thanked all the first responders who were there to show their support.
“We have the luxury of running away when something happens,” he said. “These men and women run toward it.”
L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. Captain Bill Song of the Crescenta Valley Station and many deputies and detectives were on hand to show their support.
“In 1981 in Kansas City Police Chief Richard LaMunyon [started] with a small group for the run. They raised $200. Thirty-four years later [the Law Enforcement Torch Run] has raised $500 million,” Song said.
He added that the Torch Run is a grassroots effort that has not only raised funds but also awareness.
Jersey Mike’s in La Cañada treated the athletes, volunteers and law enforcement to lunch. Allan Simmons is the owner and a strong supporter of Special Olympics.
“We started supporting them three years ago,” he said. “We have fed all the Olympians and volunteers at [seven] events.”
They have served up to 700 meals to the athletes and volunteers. Simmons said Jersey Mike’s is about community and about supporting causes like Special Olympics.
“My father always said it is important to treat people the way you want to be treated,” Simmons said.
The two torch bearers had a chance to address the audience as well. Davis has been a competitor with the Special Olympics, both the winter and summer games, since 1991.
“[Special Olympics] has given me a chance to explore and has shown me encouragement,” Davis said, “encouragement to compete in different sports.”
Davis competes in many sports categories and runs marathons as well.
“Special Olympics exist to benefit people with intellectual disabilities,” Felton said. “And it does just that.”
But as the games have grown those who benefit from the competitions have also grown as the athletes pay it forward.
“They pay it forward through their actions and their words and they become emissaries to the world,” he said.
He then quoted the Special Olympics motto, “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
The Law Enforcement Torch Run then went on to Pasadena, Arcadia and to Glendale to the Americana. The California Highway Patrol, whose officers were also on hand at the ceremony to show their support, escorted the Torch Run.
The Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015, opening ceremonies begins at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Gates open at 3 p.m. Tickets are still available. For information visit www.la2015.org.