RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT)- It's a staple of the Special Olympics Virginia Summer Games- the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
"The torch run is held near and dear to so many officers' hearts," said Henrico Police Captain Lauren Hummel. "They look forward to it, civilians look forward to it."
"You know how emotional it is when that flame enters the stadium and that Flame of Hope is lit," added Rick Jeffrey, president of Special Olympics Virginia.
The torch run features law enforcement personnel from all across the state running 1,900 miles to transport the torch to the games’ opening ceremony. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 summer games were canceled, but what would become of the torch run?
"We were devastated for the athletes, first and foremost, because it is such a special time for them to showcase their athletic ability and get medical treatment," Hummel noted.
Luckily, the staff at Special Olympics had a plan.
"The number one factor that determines whether you're a good coach or not is if you've got good players, and we've got some really really good players," said Jeffrey of his staff. "They're very creative. They've developed this virtual torch run aspect."
That's right. The torch run is a go- virtually. This year, however, it won't be limited to police, sheriffs departments and corrections officers. It can also be you. Special Olympics Virginia is urging law enforcement, the community and others to come together to cover the 1,900 miles on virtual platforms.
"We were ecstatic that we could still host a Law Enforcement Torch Run, although virtually, but also it allows us an opportunity to get the word spread out even more and have more community partners be a part of it," said Hummel.
"Go out and run or walk or bike or kayak, or on your indoor rowing machine or your treadmill," added Jeffrey. "You can virtually be a participant and raise funds to support Special Olympics."
The run will be held June 8-12 and will culminate with a torch lighting ceremony at the University of Richmond's Robins Stadium. Special Olympics athletes won't be in attendance this year, but they've already shown us how we can triumph.
"The world that our Special Olympic athletes live in is a world that we're all experiencing right now- fear, isolation, social distance- and our athletes found a way to overcome it," noted Jeffrey. "You can find a way to overcome it as well."
Jeffrey also notes that many Special Olympics participants are working as grocery store and retail workers in the community, putting themselves on the front lines of COVID-19 daily.
If you want to learn more about the virtual torch run, including how to get involved, click here.
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