Torch run for Special Olympics

Thursday, May 22, 2014
Following the short run from the Clay County Detention Center to PHS, those taking part in the Special Olympics torch run posed for a photo. Those on hand included, from left: Front-Jesse McCracken, Erma Campbell, Jeri Lynn Swann, Mark Vavak, Kristopher Shipman, Michael Harrell and Theresa Book. Back-Michael Exum, Sam Yates, Nick Poulson and Moye Hawkins.

The Arkansas Special Olympics 2014 Summer Games are set for this week in Searcy, as nearly 2,000 athletes from all corners of the state will take part in eight different sports. In preparation for the big event, the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) began Monday, May 19, from several locations around the state including Piggott.

Taking part locally in the effort for Area One, were members of the Arkansas State Police, Patrolman Sam Williams of the Piggott Police Department, PHS football coach and Special Olympics volunteer Michael Harrell and local Special Olympians Jesse McCracken and Kristopher Shipman.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is held in 50 states, and in 35 countries, and raises some $20 million annually. It recruits more than 15,000 law enforcement officers from all over the world. The original torch run was held 26 years ago in Kansas, as a vision of Chief Richard LaMunyon, who wanted to give his officers an opportunity to participate in something positive.

The Arkansas Secret Service is the founding law enforcement agency for the Arkansas Special Olympics Torch Run, in what first began as a 30-mile run. The effort now covers more than 1,200 miles and involves over 700 runners. Having grown into more than a run, the effort also serves as a campaign to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics.

This year the run originated from a dozen locations including Piggott, along with Lake Village, Belle Vista, Texarkana, West Memphis, El Dorado, Mt. Ida and Batesville.

The local leg began at the Clay County Detention Center in Piggott Monday morning, with a group of runners carrying the torch to Piggott High School where they were met by members of the student body and the Mohawk band. From the Arkansas State Police were Mark Vavak, Michael Exum, Nick Poulson and Moye Hawkins. They were joined by the Piggott representatives, Yates and Harrell, along with Shipman. The group was escorted by Chief Bill Alstadt, with other members of the Piggott PD providing traffic control.

Also on hand were Area One coordinator Theresa Book and local volunteers Erma Campbell and Jeri Lynn Swann.

From PHS the group traveled by car to Rector for the second leg. With Exum, Poulson, Vavak and Hawkisn carrying the torch the group was escorted through town by Chief Glenn Leach, while Patrolman Jeff Douglas provided traffic control.

The torch was later scheduled to make its way to Paragould, and then on to Jonesboro, before proceeding to Bald Knob and later Little Rock for the final leg. The torches are all scheduled to converge on the State Capital on Thursday, as the final leg will end on the campus of Harding University at Searcy. The opening ceremony for the Summer Games is set for Thursday evening, with competitions throughout the day on Friday and the closing ceremonies Saturday afternoon.

The complete schedule, and more information on the summer games, may be found at www.specialolympicsarkansas.org

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