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CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT PARTICIPATES IN SPECIAL OLYMPICS WEEKEND
Recently, members of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department devoted their weekend to the cause of Special Olympics by participating in two of the organization’s annual events: the Law Enforcement Torch Run and the Cruiser Convoy.
The Torch Run, which is the largest grass-roots fundraiser and public awareness program for Special Olympics worldwide, features members of the Law Enforcement community from across the State of Massachusetts who take turns guarding and carrying the Flame of Hope through their towns and into sporting events as an opener to the ceremonies.
Members of the Cruiser Convoy represent many different law enforcement agencies by driving their company vehicles across the state and meeting up with other cruisers in neighboring cities and towns before converging as a group upon the athletic fields of Harvard University. There, the members of the convoy participate in the closing of the games and the awarding of medals to winning athletes before sitting with athletes, volunteers, and Special Olympics staff to enjoy a BBQ lunch prepared by Boston area fire fighters.
Taking part in the Torch Run segment of the games, Lt. Mike Lally of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department gave his take on what makes participating in the Special Olympics such an important endeavor.
“I have a family member who has been an athlete participating in the games her entire life,” said Lt. Lally. “When law enforcement joined the Special Olympics years ago, it became a great way to bring both elements together. It’s really an unbelievable feeling running into the stadium and seeing the looks on the faces of the athletes. They go absolutely crazy when they see us. It’s really a heartwarming experience.”
Joanne Russell-Gomez of the US Department of Labor has been working with the Special Olympics since 1992. Now, as the Final Leg Director of the Torch Run for the past three years, she fully understands both the enjoyment and importance of participation.
“With every single academy, or police department, or sheriff’s department participating, it makes an athlete’s face light up and you can see that it means the world to them,” said Russell-Gomez. “We couldn’t do it without law enforcement officers like those in the Sheriff’s Department. We need everyone now more than ever. The Torch Run is about brotherhood and sisterhood. It’s a life-changing event.”
According to Lauren Fredette, Law Enforcement Torch Run Liaison for the Special Olympics, the effect of the participation by members of the law enforcement community cannot be overstated.
“Having all of the members of law enforcement that we did had an enormous impact,” said Fredette. “It lends importance to the games. The fact that these law enforcement officials - who are all so busy - took the time to come shake hands with the athletes and carry the torch makes our athletes feel valuable, honored, significant, and important.”
Fredette noted that, though there was great disappointment felt by participants over the cancellation of several of the athletic competitions due to inclement weather, much of it was replaced by the extreme joy that was evident when the officers from the Cruiser Convoy arrived to close the ceremonies.
“Just before the Cruiser Convoy arrived, we were about to announce the cancellation of the Track and Field and Aquatics competitions - the most popular of the game’s events,” Fredette said. “But when the Convoy arrived, you could see the excitement on the faces of the athletes and some of them asked, 'why are they here?' When we told them, 'they're here for you,' you could just see their faces brighten up.”
“Within moments,” Fredette continued, “the officers were lined up all the way down the track and the athletes lined up to be greeted by them. Some of them waited for forty-five minutes just to say 'hi' and to get high-fives from the officers. Even though their event was cancelled, the moment that occurred between the athletes and officers was joyful. It was just a wonderful experience for everyone.”
About Special Olympics Massachusetts
Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) provides year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programming for over 10,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities. SOMA offers over 126 year round sporting competitions. Through the power of sport, our movement transforms the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. It also unites everyone by fostering a sense of community and building a civil society. For more information visit http://www.SpecialOlympicsMA.org.