RPD carries 'Flame of Hope for SoCal Special Olympics Summer Games
The Daily Independent - 6/3/2019
June 01-- Jun. 1--A small group gathered at the corner of Gemstone Street and East California Avenue on Friday afternoon to pay respect for a special group of athletes.
For nearly a quarter mile, the group ran from the Gemstone/California intersection to the flagpole at Ridgecrest City Hall, with Ridgecrest police officers carrying a lit torch that had previously been carried in Bakersfield, Delano, Arvin, Tehachapi and California City.
The event was the last leg of the Special Olympics Southern California Torch Run for Kern County before heading south for the 2019 Southern California Special Olympics Summer Games opening ceremonies at California State University Long Beach on June 8-9.
The run is sponsored by the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Southern California.
"This is a special event for us because we get to bring recognition to a special group of incredible athletes who get a chance to participate and have the spotlight put on them," said Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin. "It was great for us to be able to participate and the crowd that came out today. We had people from the base, citizens of Ridgecrest and a resident from Inyokern."
McLaughlin said the torch run was a first for Ridgecrest and expressed a desire to conduct the run again next year on a larger scale.
"I hope we get a larger crowd next year so we can fill the streets with people and bring greater recognition to this great cause," McLaughlin said. "I hope we can close many roads and show this group what Ridgecrest is really about. Maybe next year at this time we can get the type of crowd we get for the Parade of 1,000 Flags."
Polly Deltour and Tracy O'Neal, who participated in runs in the other Kern County cities, noted their own experiences.
"It was amazing and challenging," O'Neal said. "If you could see the support, you would be impressed."
Deltour said firefighters and police officers were on hand to support the torch run.
"People were out as well and honking their car horns," Deltour said.
According to Luke Farnell, the event coordinator, the Law Enforcement Torch Run began in 1981 when a police chief from Wichita, Kansas decided to conduct a fundraising event for the Summer Special Olympics.
"He and about six of his guys decided to run a few blocks like we're doing today (Friday) and along the way they raised around $300," Farnell said to the assembled group.
Since then, Farnell said it has grown and spread across the globe. According to the Law Enforcement Torch Run mission statement, approximately $619 million has been raised for Special Olympics since 1981. Nearly 97,000 law enforcement officers in 45 countries participate, including 3,500 in Southern California.
The Special Olympics Southern California Summer Games is held yearly and attracts more than 1,100 athletes from across the southern part of the Golden State. The event features track and field, basketball, bocce, flag football, and swimming.
Its mission is to "provided year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving 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."
"Law enforcement has a tight connection through this event, so the Flame of Hope is very important to the officers who carry it," Farnell said.
Mayor Peggy Breeden commended those gathered to participate in the Ridgecrest run.
"You guys are above and beyond to have participated in the run," Breeden said. "Thank you for all that you do."
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