STEVENSVILLE — The Maryland Transportation Authority Police did their part to increase awareness and raise funds for Special Olympics with a run across the Gov. William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge Wednesday, June 5.
A total of 60 runners, made up largely of the MDTA Recruit Class 52, ran the four-mile expanse of the bridge with the Special Olympics torch leading the way in this year’s Law Enforcement Torch Run.
“During our careers, we help people,” said MDTA Police Chief Colonel Jerry Jones. “The time you spend dedicating to Special Olympics, you’re enabling (participants) to go out and live the lives they want to live. There’s always lessons to be learned when you spend time with participants.”
Jones went on to remind the participants of the day’s run about the dedication of Special Olympics athletes during their training and use that as inspiration.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics began in 1981, when Wichita, Kansas Police Chief Richard LaMunyon wanted to increase awareness of Special Olympics. The run quickly gained popularity and became the largest grass-roots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle for Special Olympics. In 2016 alone, the Law Enforcement Torch Run raised over $56.2 million.
Since the inception of the program, the organization has grown extensively worldwide with over 97,000 law enforcement volunteers spanning 46 countries, and raising more than $674 million for the Special Olympics movement since 1981.
The Flame of Hope, carried by law enforcement during the run is also carried by athletes at the opening ceremony of Special Olympics local competitions, state and provincial games, and national summer or winter games.
“These efforts provide training and competitions for athletes year-round at no cost to them,” said First Sergeant Timothy Hughes, of the MDTA Police Communications Unit. “If (officers) can volunteer and give out medals to athletes at these events, they’ll love it. They get hugs and kisses, and I’ve been doing it for many years, and I’m hooked.”
In addition, every two years, law enforcement officers from around the world gather to carry the Flame of Hope in a final leg torch run in honor of the Special Olympics World Summer or World Winter Games.
Adding to the special occasion was that June 5 was Global Running Day.
“Next year, I would like to have one of the athletes participate in this,” said Hughes as runners did their final stretches and were taken to the starting line.