Hope burns bright as law enforcement carries torch for Special Olympics

A Cedar City police car leads the procession for the Law Enforcement Torch Run, Cedar City, Utah, May 18, 2016 | Photo by Paul Dail, St. George News

CEDAR CITY — Even though cloudy, rainy weather was in the forecast, the sun was out and shining Wednesday morning when the Flame of Hope was carried down Cedar City’s Main Street as part of the Utah “Law Enforcement Torch Run.”

Cedar City marks the third stop for the Flame of Hope on its way to the Opening Ceremonies of the Special Olympics Utah’s 2016 Summer Games to be held June 10 at Lone Peak High School in Highland.

Cedar City Police Sgt. Jerry Womack gives athletes and support staff instructions on how the torch run will proceed, Cedar City, Utah, May 18, 2016 | Photo by Paul Dail, St. George News
Cedar City Police Sgt. Jerry Womack gives athletes and support staff instructions on how the torch run will proceed, Cedar City, Utah, May 18, 2016 | Photo by Paul Dail, St. George News

Cedar City Police Sgt. Jerry Womack headed up the Cedar City leg of the torch run. Womack, who has been involved in law enforcement for 27 years, said while he has participated in the run in the past, this was his first year being in charge.

For Womack, however, it was more than just being in charge of an event. He has a personal connection with Special Olympics; a nephew in Moab who participates as an athlete.

“He’s a bowler and a swimmer,” Womack said, adding that he enjoys watching his nephew compete.

Womack had planned on running Wednesday, but was prevented from doing so by a foot injury. Several other law enforcement officers contacted Womack expressing a desire to also show their support including other members of the Cedar City Police Department, as well as officers from the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, Utah Highway Patrol, Adult Probation and Parole, and Southern Utah University law enforcement.

Approximately 25 athletes and support staff showed up from TURN Community Services and Chrysalis Enterprises to be part of the event.

The Law Enforcement Torch run started in 1981 in Wichita, Kansas, with Wichita Police Chief Richard LaMunyon. President and CEO of Special Olympics Utah D’Arcy Dixon called the origins of the event “very organic.” She said:

The police chief of Wichita picked up a torch and said, ‘We need to do more to support those with intellectual disabilities in our community,’ and he just picked it up and started running it down Main Street. … The next year, he had a lot of officers running with him.

The torch run was picked up the next year by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, at which point it became known as the Law Enforcement Torch Run.

At its most basic level, Dixon said, the run is an athletic running event where officers and Special Olympics athletes run the Flame of Hope to the Opening Ceremonies of the Summer Games.

Torches to be used during the 2016 Law Enforcement Torch Run, Cedar City, Utah, May 18, 2016 | Photo by Paul Dail, St. George News
Torches to be used during the 2016 Utah Law Enforcement Torch Run, Cedar City, Utah, May 18, 2016 | Photo by Paul Dail, St. George News

The 2016 Utah Law Enforcement Torch Run started on May 12 in Roosevelt City. Dixon said the run has naturally evolved to coincide with National Peace Officers Memorial Day on May 15.

“For some communities, it’s part of remembering fallen officers,” Dixon said. “The Law Enforcement Torch Run raises awareness for individuals with intellectual disabilities, inviting the company to join law enforcement in accepting and including people with intellectual disabilities into all aspects of our life. It’s a display of mutual respect and commitment between athletes and law enforcement, and our athletes really love and appreciate their law enforcement.”

The next leg of the 2016 Law Enforcement Torch Run will be Friday in San Juan County, followed by Saturday in Washington County, which will coincide with the Southern Area Special Olympics track and field competition taking place at Desert Hills High School.

After Washington County, the Flame of Hope will travel through Tooele County, Box Elder County, Weber County, Cache County and the recently added Millard County.

Athletes took turns running with the Flame of Hope down Main Street, Cedar City, Utah, May 18, 2016 | Photo by Paul Dail, St. George News
Athletes took turns running with the Flame of Hope down Main Street, Cedar City, Utah, May 18, 2016 | Photo by Paul Dail, St. George News

“What we’re trying to do is represent all four areas of the state coming together in the center,” Dixon said.

The “center” is represented by the final leg of the torch run into Utah County for the 2016 Summer Games on June 10.

“We have invited every law enforcement agency from federal to local to come and volunteer to run in the final leg,” Dixon said. “We just do a one mile run, and they actually run it into our Opening Ceremonies. That’s what we’re trying to do, to give every opportunity we can for law enforcement to be involved in that final leg. … That’s the point of the final leg.”

Any law enforcement officers interested in participating in the final leg should contact Shafer Milligan, Law Enforcement Torch Run coordinator for Special Olympics Utah, at 801-879-6855 or email milligan@sout.org.

Resources:

  • Special Olympics Utah Law Enforcement Torch Run website

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Email: pdail@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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