Police officers from all over Oregon are running a relay across the state to raise funds for the state's Special Olympics Summer Games in Newberg this weekend.
In 1981, the law enforcement torch run started in Witchita, Kansas and has grown to become an international event with over 1500 police officers participating. Officers run across their districts carrying a torch, or flame of hope, to garner attention and money from local communities. The goal is to raise enough funds to support room and board costs for the athletes participating in the Special Olympics. Nationwide, most of the relays happen simultaneously and culminate to the single largest Special Olympics fundraiser of the year. On Wednesday, about 3 dozen police officers, military personnel and athletes from the Eugene/Springfield area jogged into the valley river center parking lot to the cheers of supporters…
Over the last several days this torch has traveled from Roseburg from one town to the next until it reaches its final destination of Newberg, Oregon for the Summer State games, Saturday. Athlete Ricky Cain is a multi-sport contender, he says, "1500 meter dash and I do the shotput and the relay."
He'll be joined by fellow athlete Molly Muer, who says "I do shotput, the 100 meter and 4 by 1."
The two athletes were joined by a number of police personnel including Officer Richard Lewis who ran about 6 miles from the Springfield Police Department. He says "We have a long history of helping Special Olympics out mainly with handing out medals and special events and it's a really good chance for us to get out there amongst the community. They're a great organization, they've been supportive of law enforcement like we've been supportive of them and it's worked out great for years."
Eugene-Springfield will be sending about 120 athletes to Newberg where more than 2000 athletes will be competing. Local Special Olympics Program Coordinator Ted Barker says the Lane county program has been a huge hit, "We've had great success, we've had three coaches for the world games in Greece that got to go, which is really unusual because we had like 60 some coaches in the nation and three out of Eugene. So we have a great coaching group here."
The majority of the local chapter's 15-20 thousand dollar budget comes from revenue from the relay. The group also does a polar plunge and a variety of smaller fundraisers through out the year to support the athletes. The games will be held Saturday and Sunday July 12th and 13th in Newberg.