Law Enforcement Torch Run Held for Special Olympics

Thursday, May 21, 2015
The group taking part in the first leg of the run posed for a photo before moving on to Rector, and southward on their journey to Little Rock.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

The Arkansas Special Olympics 2015 Summer Games are set for this week in Searcy, as over 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 18, from several locations around the state including Piggott.

Taking part locally in the effort for Area One, were members of the Arkansas State Police, Piggott Police Department, Rector Police Department and Clay County Sheriff's Department along with other first responders, local volunteers and Special Olympians. Among those running were ASP troopers Michael Exum, Aaron Morphis, Mark Vavak and Michael Tompkins.

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.

First responders, Special Olympians and volunteers took part in the first leg of the torch run Monday morning in Piggott.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

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, with the local leg beginning at the Clay County Detention Center. PPD patrolman Jeremi Wicker had the honor of running the first leg, as the group made its way to PHS where they were met by members of the student body and the Mohawk band. They were also joined by Special Olympics participants Kris Shipman, Laykin Boyd and Jesse McCracken from PHS and Jacob James from Corning. The procession was led by Piggott Police Chief Don Poole, and Patrolman Sam Yates also participated for the second year in a row.

From PHS the group traveled by car to Rector for the second leg. "This year we changed and ran the torch by the school in Rector," noted Area One Coordinator Theresa Book. "It was a nice change, we usually just run it down the highway from the General Baptist Church to the intersection, but (Rector Police Chief) Glen Leach suggested we do it this way and it was great."

Trooper Mark Vavak had the honor of carrying the torch through Rector, as the journey continued southward as the day progressed. Book indicated a number of other first responders, including members of local fire departments, also joined the runners as they passed through their communities.

The torch was also carried past the Marmaduke schools campus on its way south, another change to the previous route which was met with great approval.

The torch later made several stops in 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 7:30 Thursday evening, with competitions throughout the day on Friday and the closing ceremonies set for 1 p.m. Saturday.

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

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