Special Olympics athletes and law enforcement supporters carried a torch of hope across the Crescenta Valley.
By Charly SHELTON
Just like the Summer Olympics that will be held in Tokyo in 2020, the Special Olympics have a torch that is carried through the streets and into the Games to start the Games. To get the torch into the arena takes several relay legs, passed from one carrier to the next. In 1981, the tradition of the Special Olympics torch was started by Wichita, Kansas Police Chief Richard LaMunyon and the tradition is carried on to this day.
What began as a small event with runners carrying the “Flame of Hope” into their state games has caught on like wildfire across the nation. The annual Law Enforcement Torch Run is now more than 97,000 officers strong. Local Special Olympics Games, like the Southern California Summer Games taking place this weekend at Cal State Long Beach, as well as state, national and world level games, all feature the torch entrance to start the proceedings. The torch is carried by one police or sheriff’s department, which passes it off to another. Last Monday saw the most recent leg of the relay pass through the Crescenta Valley.
The torch started off at the CV Sheriff’s Station and was handed off, officer-to-officer, to reach the end point at Town Kitchen and Grill in Montrose, where the officers from Glendale Police Dept. were holding the annual Tip-A-Cop event. They could be seen waiting on tables in the restaurant with their “tips” going to the Glendale Special Olympics Games. It was a big night of fundraisers and outreach to show the cooperation between local law enforcement officers and the Special Olympics organization.
“As a Special Olympics local program, we get to cultivate relationships with law enforcement personnel in our own community. These are the officers and deputies who come to our competitions and present medals. They also work various Tip-A-Cop [events] in the city so our athletes get to know them by name and vice versa,” said Kim Villa, Glendale local program coordinator. “Being known as Special Olympics Glendale [after a recent name change from Santa Clarita and Tri Valleys Regional Special Olympics] has made it easier to connect with the community because we are seen as a local program serving local athletes with local volunteers and supporters.”
The officers from the CV Sheriff’s Station ran alongside Special Olympics athletes to carry the torch and, for newly installed Captain Todd Deeds, it was a fun experience.
“I thought it was absolutely [great] to be able to support such a wonderful organization like the Special Olympics,” said Captain Deeds. “[The athletes who ran with the officers] were fantastic, they had lots of energy, they were excited and, when the people were cheering for them on the streets, they absolutely loved it. It was just overall a great event for the athletes and their families and I think the community as well.”
Overall, Villa said the event went off without a hitch and was a good way of not only getting the word out about the community event but also celebrating the partnership between the officers and the athletes.
“I am extremely grateful for the support from the community for all the events that we do,” Villa said. “Our community is very unique in comparison to other cities. We see it in the ways people show up to volunteer, their eagerness to spread the word, the way they embrace our athletes, the way they celebrate our athletes and give them a safe place to call home.”
The Special Olympics Glendale Games were held in April, and the team is already gearing up for next year’s event. The Southern California Games will be held this weekend, June 8 and June 9, at Cal State Long Beach.
For more information, visit SOSC.org.