OSWEGO – Members of several local law enforcement agencies carried the “Flame of Hope” for an abbreviated run from the Oswego Police Department to the Oswego Police Department today (May 30) in the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics New York.
Oswego’s Law Enforcement Torch Run season has kicked off the state-wide event takes place every year from May through June.
Oswego Police Department, Fulton Police Department, Oswego County Sheriff’s Department, University Police at SUNY Oswego and New York State Police participated. They were joined by members of Team Red, White and Blue.
Historically, the event begins at the Oswego Police Department and concludes at the Fulton Police Department, about 12 miles away. Some have even started from University Police headquarters on the SUNY Oswego campus.
However, “this year, we decided to tighten up the event a little bit,” said Cassandra Rucker, Special Olympics’ director of development, Central Region and Southern Tier. “It has helped us to more than triple our participants.”
More than 50 runners, two-legged and four-legged, took part in the 2018 event.
The LETR helps raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics New York athletes. LETR is a year-round, grassroots fundraising campaign by law enforcement agencies across the globe to benefit local Special Olympics programs.
The run is a time honored tradition of more than 30 years, led and orchestrated by the “Guardians of the Flame,” which includes more than 6,000 law enforcement personnel from 470 agencies throughout New York State whose ultimate goal is to raise funds and awareness for the athletes of Special Olympics New York.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run began in 1981 when Wichita, Kansas, Police Chief Richard LaMunyon saw an urgent need to raise funds for and increase awareness of Special Olympics.
It 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, Rucker explained.
Each year, officers carry the “Flame of Hope” through the streets of their hometowns and countries to deliver it to their local, state and national Special Olympics games, Rucker told Oswego County Today.
“There’s no community too big or too small” she said. “We have athletes training year round all across the state that benefit from this and othe events.”
In 2017, New York LETRs raised more than $2 million statewide in support of local Special Olympics athletes.
It’s a figure they hope to surpass in 2018, according to event organizer Lt. Charlie Searor of the Oswego Police Department.
“More than 1,200-members of our Central New York law enforcement community take part in Torch Run events across the region, including Oswego County,” he said. “As guardians of the Flame of Hope, we hope to raise awareness and funds for our Special Olympics athletes here in New York.”
In addition to supporting Special Olympics athletes, LETR raises funds for the Special Olympics New York Summer Games.
Thousands of individuals, including Special Olympics New York athletes, coaches and volunteers, are expected to attend the weekend of competition. Events include basketball, volleyball, track and field, tennis, bowling, gymnastics, swimming and powerlifting.
“I’m glad to help in any way to spread awareness for the Special Olympics. To show people that there are other events that are open to everyone no matter their skill level,” OPD Officer Chelsea Giovo told Oswego County Today. “It’s nice to be able to participate in an event like this all together.”
“This was just a perfect day for a run for a great cause,” Oswego Police Chief Tory DeCaire said. “I love the camaraderie that comes with running with these local departments.”
“We re-started the Oswego event six years ago. It’s happened off and on more than 30 years here,” Rucker said. “We’ve been six consecutive years now.”
The event used to criss-cross the Empire State connecting all the departments.
“But now, with how busy everybody is and time and everything else, we’ve shorten more of the legs to be more manageable so that more people will take part,” Rucker explained.
“The Law Enforcement Torch Run isn’t just about running with a torch … Our goal has always been to bring awareness to the talents, hopes and dreams of the athletes of Special Olympics,” said June Worden, Retired New York State Police, current Law Enforcement Torch Run State Director of NY and Special Olympics New York Board of Directors member. “Moving forward we hope to unify all athletes, regardless of skill level, to inclusion. In doing so our world will be a better place both on and off the playing fields.”
The Torch Run engages law enforcement worldwide championing acceptance and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities, starting first with their own communities.
Over the years, it has evolved and now encompasses a variety of innovative fundraising platforms to include Plane Pulls, Polar Plunges, Tip-A-Cops, and more.
Since inception, LETR has raised more than half a billion dollars and changed millions of attitudes.
“Through the partnership of LETR and Special Olympics, we provide opportunities for athletes to empower and transform themselves, their communities and the world,” Rucker said. “LETR is changing the future for people with intellectual disabilities and lighting the way for acceptance and inclusion.”
Other events include Cops on Top (to be held in August at area Dunkin’ Donuts) and the annual Polar Plunge
Special Olympics is the largest amateur sports organization in the world.
With more than 68,000 athletes, Special Olympics New York is the largest chapter in North America, the sixth largest chapter in the world and has grown to include 66,835 athletes and unified partners and is arguably the best in both quality and quantity in the world.
There are 5,750 competitions held in New York State each year.
Special Olympics New York athletes train and compete year-round in 23 Olympic-style sports, at no cost to the athletes, their families or their caregivers.
This gives them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.
Special Olympics New York will host approximately 60 individual Law Enforcement Torch Run events throughout various communities across the state; congregating with local dignitaries, sponsors and celebrities, and making appearances at upcoming regional and local competitions.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run’s finale premiers at the ever illuminating opening ceremonies at Special Olympics New York’s State Summer Games.
This year’s State Summer Games will be hosted by Siena College in Loudonville, NY, on June 15-17.
“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
For more information or to donate, please visit www.nyso.org . #SpecialOlympicsNY