By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – They didn’t pass the torch, but instead handed over proceeds from the Law Enforcement Torch events to Special Olympics’ representatives Thursday, which will help keep Special Olympians supplied with equipment and events to participate.
The Safford and Thatcher police departments, along with the Safford Fire Department, sponsored the third annual Law Enforcement Torch Run Barbecue, which raised $3,468. The mission of the Arizona Law Enforcement Torch Run is to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics statewide. The torch run is the largest supporter of Special Olympics throughout the world and brought in $1.45 million.
“Law enforcement agencies are not just forking over checks or anything, they truly are part of our Special Olympics family,” said Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run Coordinator Kelsey Hawker. “They are the ones out there opening doors for us and allowing the athletes to try new experiences. They just go above and beyond.”
On Thursday, Safford Sgt. Jason Dolan and Thatcher officer Jimmy Whisman presented a bag containing $3,468 to Hawker and Special Olympics Monument Area Director and Trainer Eve Vance. In turn, Hawker and Vance’s guest, Special Olympian Meridian Smith, 12, of Mesa, presented Dolan and Whisman with plaques reflecting last year’s fundraising effort, which raised $5,450 and earned the departments the designation of being a top-10 fundraising agency per capita.
Vance said she hopes to build on the programs that went on last year and said the support in the Gila Valley for the programs is outstanding. She also thanked the law enforcement for their efforts.
“We appreciate all that they do for us,” Vance said.
Smith, who loves to play basketball and bocce and is part of the Gilbert Roadrunners association, said she was happy to get out of the Valley of the Sun and come to Safford, but that it was “still hot” in the Gila Valley as well.
Next up for the Special Olympics will be the Safford Youth Unified Sports Bocce Tournament at Dorothy Stinson Elementary School on Friday, Sept. 22, from 8:30 to 11 a.m. The Safford Adults GCRC & Sage Bocce Tournament will then follow at the same venue on the same day from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Volunteers are appreciated at the tournaments.
Law enforcement would like to thank all the sponsors who helped make the Law Enforcement Torch Run a success, with special thanks to everyone who purchased barbecue dinners or made monetary donations.