Police employees ran along Pacific Coast Highway and Dover Drive on Thursday, carrying a torch to help raise awareness and funding for the Special Olympics.
Several members of the Newport Beach Police Department participated in the annual Special Olympics Torch Run, joining 85,000 other law enforcement officers across 35 nations. In California, approximately 3,500 are expected to run 1,500 miles through 200 communities.
Although it is traditionally a law enforcement event, members of the Newport Beach Fire Department were invited by NBPD to join in the run.
The team of 15, including police Chief Jay Johnson, ran 5.6 miles.
Officers collected donations for their participation and were sponsored by civic groups, local businesses, and generous friends.
All of the money raised by the event goes to the Special Olympics and is directed towards program support and development, expenses for athlete participation in local, regional, state, and international competitions, and training workshops and conferences.
The run raised $38.3 million in 2010, making it the movement’s largest grassroots fundraiser.
Each year, the “Flame of Hope” torch is carried into Newport Beach along PCH by runners from the Laguna Beach Police Department. It is handed off to NBPD runners at Newport Coast Drive and then carried along the highway and up Dover Drive, where it is handed off to members of the Costa Mesa Police Department.
The man behind the first Torch Run in 1981 was Wichita, Kan., police chief Richard LaMunyan, according to the Special Olympics Torch Run website. He developed the run as a way to get local law enforcement involved with their community and support the Special Olympics.
Today, the Special Olympics Torch Run is more than just a run and encompasses a variety of fundraising vehicles such as T-shirt and merchandise sales, special events like polar bear plunges, tip-a-cop and building sits and a host of other events that have local, state and national appeal.
“The Law Enforcement Torch Run transforms communities by inspiring people to open their minds, to accept and include people with intellectual disabilities, celebrating differences among all people … recognizing and respecting the similarities we all share,” the website states. “For athletes and officers alike, the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics is a story of success, love, respect and commitment between law enforcement officers and Special Olympic athletes.”