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Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Ohio returns

News-Herald - 6/25/2022

Jun. 25—A beloved cross-community event has returned to Northeast Ohio after a two-year hiatus.

Due to the pandemic, the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Ohio, which kicks off before the Games in Columbus, was nixed in 2019 and 2020.

However, athletes, law enforcement officials, and Lake CountyBoard of Developmental Disabilities/Deepwood clients and staff members gleefully marked the rebound of the "ride and run."

Following tradition, the cycling team met at Mentor Fire Department Station No. 4 and then made its way by police escort to Deepwood Industries'Willoughby Branch location, where board staff and individuals who receive services greeted them with applause and homemade signs.

After a quick pit stop, law enforcement officials continued their trek to escort the torch to the Cuyahoga County leg in Euclid.

"It's neat that this torch is the same one that goes all the way to the Summer Games," said Special Olympics cyclist Danielle Schein.

Special Olympics Lake County Coordinator Chris Bundy agreed.

"This torch, which travels throughout the state, lights the cauldron, setting the Games forward," he said, adding Lake County's leg boasted about 25 people. "It's nice, too, to see all the signs during the ride that people, young and old, have made to encourage us and cheer us on. It's nice to be back, finally, in different capacities headed down to Ohio State University."

The ceremony hosts nearly 3,000 athletes, unified partners and coaches from across the state to compete in bocce, bowling, soccer, gymnastics, powerlifting, track and field, tennis, and volleyball.

This year, about 50 Special Olympics Lake County athletes and a dozen volunteers will participate in the games.

"We've had a partnership with Mentor Police for more than a decade — it's a culmination of a lot of hard work and orchestrating little details that make this a memorable occasion for the athletes," Bundy said. "It's great to see the athletes interacting with the local police and how much joy this event brings them."

Cyclist Alex Lozano said it's fun to participate in the event and hear everyone cheer.

"I am getting ready for my seventh triathlon and this makes me happy," he added.

Brandon Smith from the Painesville City Police Department and Kasey Lasko, the Special Olympics leg leader for the state of Ohio, carried the torch to meet the athletes.

"It's amazing to be part of all of this and support one of the best organizations in the state," Lasko said.

The volunteer movement began in 1981 when Wichita Police Chief Richard LaMunyon created the Torch Run to promote community and law enforcement activity in support of Special Olympics Kansas.

According to officials, the "Flame of Hope," carried by over 97,000 individuals annually, also represents courage, perseverance and inclusion.

Known as "Guardians of the Flame," law enforcement members and Special Olympics athletes carry the torch into Opening Ceremonies of local competitions, in addition to provincial, national, regional and world games.


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