Law Enforcement Torch Run Held for Special Olympics

Thursday, May 26, 2016
For the second year in a row, Jeremi Wicker of the Piggott PD had the honor of starting the annual Special Olympics torch run Monday morning. He was joined by runners from the Special Olympics, ASP, Clay County Sheriff's Department, Greene County Sheriff's Department and Paragould PD on the first leg.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

The Arkansas Special Olympics 2016 Summer Games are set for this week on the campus of Harding University, 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 23, from several locations around the state including Piggott.

Taking part locally in the effort for Area One Special Olympics, were members of the Arkansas State Police, Piggott Police Department, Rector Police Department, Clay County Sheriff's Department, Paragould Police Department and Greene County Sheriff's Department. The run was coordinated by Area One field representative, and former Piggott resident, Theresa Book.

Those gathering for the local leg included Jeremi Wicker of the Piggott PD; Clay County Sheriff Terry Miller; Deputy Tom Colbert, Deputy Cody Carter and Deputy Clint Davis of the Clay County Sheriff's Department; Deputy Rick Mellow and Deputy John Jenkins of the Greene County Sheriff's Department; Chris Gray and Tron Beesley of the Paragould PD and Michael Exum and Michael Tompkins of the ASP. Also running were Book, and her daughter, Savannah Book, while her husband, Mike, was recruited as a driver for the day.

Runners make their way through Rector in the second leg of the Northeast Arkansas portion of the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.(TD photo/Jessica Rainwater)

The local leg was coordinated by Lt. Sam Williams of the Piggott PD, while Chief Glenn Leach coordinated the Rector leg of the run.

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, with the local leg beginning at the stop light at East Main and Thornton, and making its way to PES where a large group of students waited to cheer the runners on.

Jeremi Wicker of the Piggott PD once again had the honor of running the first leg, assisted by Michael Tompkins of the Arkansas State Police.

The group then caravaned to Rector for the second leg, which was run from the First General Baptist Church to the Flash Market. Last year the run made its way by Rector Schools, but the route was changed this year since classes had already dismissed for the summer.

The participants also ran legs through Oak Grove, from the elementary to the middle school. And, they also ran a leg in the area of Baldwin Elementary in Paragould, and along Second Street where clients of Focus and Abilities Unlimited lined the path. The group also enjoyed a luncheon celebration at Centennial Bank in Paragould.

Tuesday, the torch continued into Jonesboro, before proceeding to Forest City 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 Saturday.

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

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