OSWEGO-FULTON, NY – More than two dozen members of area law enforcement agencies were pounding the pavement in the heat and humidity for more than two hours straight today (May 31) for a good cause.
Members of local law enforcement carried the “Flame of Hope” from Oswego Police Department to Fulton Police Department to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics New York athletes, and the 2016 Special Olympics New York Summer Games, June 10-12, at SUNY Brockport.
More than 1,000 Special Olympics New York athletes, coaches and volunteers are expected to attend the weekend of competition including basketball, volleyball, track & field, tennis, bowling, gymnastics, swimming and powerlifting.
For decades, police officers throughout Oswego County have participated in the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.
Today, officers representing the cities of Fulton and Oswego, State Police, the county Sheriff’s Office, Border patrol and others, including Team Red, White and Blue carried on the tradition.
Starting at 9:15 a.m., they ran from OPD to FPD arriving about two hours later.
For safety, they had an escort of police vehicles the entire route.
“Today’s run traveled about 12 miles from the Oswego PD to the Fulton PD,” Cassandra Rucker, director of development, Special Olympics New York Central Region, told Oswego County Today. “We’re raising awareness for the 65,000 athletes of New York. We have done this for 30 years now, including several now in Oswego (to Fulton).”
There is a really special bond between Special Olympics athletes and law enforcement, she added.
“The athletes look up to the members of law enforcement so much and law enforcement is truly inspired by the triumphs that our athletes have,” Rucker said.
Each year, members of Fulton and Oswego Police Departments are among the many eager and enthusiastic law enforcement agencies to participate in the Torch Run.
“The Fulton Police Department and other local departments take part in this run both to raise awareness and money for Special Olympic athletes. The torch run gives members of the Fulton Police Department the opportunity to support special Olympic athletes who live, work, and compete in our community. Also, the money that is raised through this event gives Special Olympic athletes the opportunity to take part in athletic events throughout the state,” said Lt. Ralph W. McCann Jr. of the Fulton Police Department.
Oswego Police Department Torch Run participants agree that this event helps to raise awareness and funds for a worthy cause.
“This event builds camaraderie between local agencies, all the while supporting a great organization,” said Oswego Police Officer, Chelsea Giovo.
Fellow Oswego Police Officer, Justin Grasso agreed. “This has a big influence in the community that shows our support and helps get the word out to continue to raise awareness for the Special Olympics,” he said.
The annual fundraiser continues to grow; not that long ago, there were only three runs in Central New York.
Nearly 1,200 members of our Central New York law enforcement community will take part in this year’s Torch Run events, including Oswego Country,” said event organizer Lt. Charlie Searor of the Oswego Police Department. “Our mission is to raise awareness and funds for the 67,000 athletes of Special Olympics New York.”
The “Flame of Hope” carried from the Oswego Police Department to Fulton Police Department today will continue its journey into early June as it heralds the arrival of the Special Olympics New York athletes to the 2016 Special Olympics New York Summer Games.
The runs are designed to focus attention on the Special Olympics.
The torch run came to New York in 1985.
The LETR for Special Olympics is the movement’s largest grassroots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle for Special Olympics in the world.
The event began in 1981 when Wichita, Kansas, Police Chief Richard LaMunyon saw an urgent need to raise funds for and increase awareness of Special Olympics.
The run was quickly adopted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, now recognized as the founding law enforcement organization of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.
“The event was a success. We had a number of agencies take part in this run both to raise awareness and money for Special Olympic athletes,” said Lt. Searor. “The money that’s raised through this event gives Special Olympic athletes the opportunity to take part in athletic events throughout the state.”
Now celebrating its 30th anniversary in New York, the Law Enforcement Torch Run is a year-round, grassroots fundraising campaign to benefit local Special Olympics programs. Each year, officers carry the “Flame of Hope” through the streets of their hometowns and countries and deliver it to their local, state and national Special Olympics games.
In 2015, the Law Enforcement Torch Run programs raised nearly $1.8 million statewide. Within the LETR more than $51 million was raised globally.
Almost $2 million was raised for the athletes of Special Olympics New York in 2014.
More than 142,000 law enforcement officers in all 50 states, 12 Canadian provinces and 48 countries contribute to Torch Run efforts annually as Guardians of the Flame, ensuring the delivery of the Special Olympics Flame of Hope to the opening ceremonies of local Special Olympics competitions, state/provincial games and national games, according to Rucker.
Special Olympics is the largest amateur sports organization in the world.
With more than 67,000 athletes, Special Olympics New York is the largest chapter in North America and the sixth largest chapter in the world.
Special Olympics New York athletes train and compete year-round in 22 sports at no cost to the athlete, their families or their caregivers.
For more information or to donate visit www.nyso.org
Information for this article was submitted by Steve Yablonski and Mikayla Kemp