To protect and to serve. Law Enforcement officers take this community service credo seriously and the Special Olympics Missouri's Torch Run is but another example of how this tradition is continually honored and upheld.
According to The Standard Democrat, approximately 50 southeast Missouri law enforcement officers will lace up their running shoes, put on their track gear, and race a torch across the state to promote awareness for the Special Olympics and the upcoming 2007 State Summer Games. The event, which kicked off today, will end June 4.
"This is a way Missouri law enforcement officers give back to others, and I think it's very much needed," says Lt. Jim McNiell, Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop E Torch Run coordinator for the past four years. McNiell was recognized by the state as an Outstanding Volunteer Unsung Hero in both 2002 and 2006. "It serves lots of purposes supporting such an outstanding cause, and that's what it's all about."
The event is divided into seven legs. Each leg of the race is approximately five miles. About 200 Missouri law enforcement agencies raise approximately $1 million each annually from event-related sales proceeds. Last year, Missouri's Torch Run was ranked No. 8 in the world based on gross dollars raised.
"It's just a worthwhile cause," McNiell says. "The efforts we make by selling T-shirts and hats are benefiting 15,000 Special Olympics athletes in the state. By the money we raise, the athletes are able to participate in the event at no expense to their families."
A world-wide event that has been in existence for 25 years, the Torch Run originated in Wichita, Kan., in 1981. The result of a collaborative effort between the Summer Games for Special Olympics' organizing committee and law enforcement, the event was created to handle security logistics for the organization.
"This event shows a different to side to law enforcement other than officers carrying guns and making traffic stops," McNiell says. "The public sees the humanity of law enforcement — that we are caring people and involved in community."