PERU — As the torch-bearing runners followed their police escort, the bond between members of the law enforcement community and the Special Olympics was once again on proud display.
On June 8, officers from the Peru Police Department and the Illinois State Police District 17 met at the LaSalle Fire Department for the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.
The runners, including both officers and athletes, ran west along Route 6 to Peru. The run ended with a celebration at Horizon House, a non-profit organization providing an array of services to adults with disabilities including residential and day services ranging from full 24-hour care to intermittent in-home visits and employment support..
According to its website, Horizon House serves North Central Illinois with two administrative facilities in Peru and 12 small homes in LaSalle and Bureau counties.
“It was a great time; our local law enforcement agencies are so important. They’ve supported our events by helping pass out awards, and they also help us with fundraising. Our partnership with them is so special to us, and the athletes love when the officers come in uniform to the events,” Allison Nichols, director of Special Olympics Area 16, said.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run is the single largest year-round fundraising event benefiting Special Olympics Illinois. Over the past 31 years, it’s raised almost $43 million. The annual intrastate relay, along with other fundraising projects, have the goals of raising money and helping to increase the public’s awareness of the Special Olympics competitions and the accomplishments of the athletes.
“This leg we ran today was just part of the many routes that have been being run from all over the state. They’ll end in Bloomington/Normal at Illinois State University at our opening ceremony at Red Bird Arena on June 9,” Nichols said.
Approximately 3,000 officers representing every branch of Illinois law enforcement, from state and local police officers to FBI agents, were involved in the Torch Run. The torch, called The Flame of Hope, was held high for almost 1,500 miles from June 5 to 10.
Officers ran through thousands of Illinois communities via 23 different legs to its final destination. In addition to the donations raised through the run, officers also raise funds throughout the year by participating in events such as The Polar Plunge, Plane Pull, Truck Convoy, Tip-A-Cop events, golf tournaments and more.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run selected the theme of “Guardians of the Flame” for their 2017 run and will be using #ILTorchRun on social media to inspire officers and departments to spread the word about how the run impacts the lives of the Illinois Special Olympics athletes.