In every community there are those who go above and beyond their call of duty to support those in need and provide people with an opportunity to reach new heights. For the past 30 years, since Chief Richard LaMunyon Founder of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) and the five other officers who joined him in carrying the first torch into the Summer Games in Witchita, Kansas, Law Enforcement officers have been the Guardians of the Flame for Special Olympics. But for those not involved with LETR, what does that mean?
“As police officers, our job is to protect and serve, as Guardians of the Flame we protect the athletes. Not only do we give but we also receive more than we give.” Carl Dabadie, from the Baton Rouge Police Department said.
LETR has developed into more than an annual run for Special Olympic Summer Games. For the many involved with LETR it represents honor, respect and pride. LETR is the largest grassroots partnership that Special Olympics has. With more than 85,000 law enforcement individuals around the world, they have raised more than $42 million dollars for Special Olympics athletes this year and have raised over $400 million since the Torch Run’s inception.
But why do almost 100,000 officers around the world jump into frigid bodies of water in February, put on aprons and collect tips at local restaurants or even pull 150-ton trains?
“We do these things to help make sure Special Olympics athletes around the world have the opportunity to participate in sporting events that not only show them how to win at that sport but how to win at life.” Ann Rakosi, Communication Supervisor for Coos County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon said. “This is the best feel good thing I have ever done.”
Almost 1000 Law Enforcement officers gathered to attend this year’s LETR International Conference in Calgary, Canada. “Seeing everyone that is united for a common goal really lends some credibility to your mission.” Police Officer Mark Wiesemann, of the Lee’s Summit, Missouri Police Department said. “This is a major support system and we are doing things here that will allow us to grow our program (LETR) throughout the world.”
This year’s LETR International Conference highlighted LETR programs around the globe, showcased how much money was raised for local programs, honored law enforcement heroes and heard first hand from athletes why Special Olympics has enriched their lives for them and their family.
“To know there are people supporting us and inspiring us, it is truly remarkable. We, the athletes, are always fighting to know there are people supporting us and trying to integrate us into what they do. I want to thank LETR from the bottom of my heart for all they do for us” Mathew Williams, Special Olympics British Columbia athlete and Sargent Shriver Global Messenger said.
“Just come to one event. First 15 minutes you are there, it will change your life and there is no going back” Rakosi says. “I have been doing this for 6 years and I will do this as long as I can push my walker around when I am 100.”
Learn more about how to get involved with LETR in your area
Learn more about Special Olympics Oregon
See the photos from the LETR International Conference in Calgary