The Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) has been an important part of the Special Olympics since its inception in 1981.
Started in Wichita, Kansas, by Police Chief Richard LaMunyon as a way to raise awareness about the organization, the run has grown into a worldwide event.
On Thursday morning, a group of Richmond County law enforcement, probation and NC Dept of Correction officers gathered at the Pee Dee River to light the torch that has been making its way across the state in the hands of officers.
“The torch has been carried through counties all over the state,” said event organizer John Edwards. “Today, we will light the torch and carry it from the river bridge, which is near the county line, all the way to Hinson Lake.”
Eight runners, flanked by blue-light escorts and an EMS vehicle, gathered in the steaming heat of the morning to pound the several miles of blacktop through the county.
John Edwards, Dabrielle McMillian, Warren Strong, Thomas Grooms, Debbie Grooms, Frank Smith, Ivan Ellison and Johnnie Bryant were the participating athletes, with varying degrees of experience, but all were equally enthusiastic.
“I’ve been a part of this run since 2005,” said Strong, who is a deputy with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s a pretty tough run, probably about nine miles with steep hills. Mental preparation is important, and being around other runners is a good motivator.”
“This is my first time running in this event, but I do run sort of regularly,” said Bryant, who works for the N.C. Dept. of Correction. “I usually run five or six miles though, so this will be a challenge.”
The Special Olympics state games will kick off in Raleigh today, and the torch that has been through many North Carolina counties will be there as a beacon of support from officers around the state.
Also assisting to provide support at the event were: Diane Moore; Tilisha Mayhue; Ashley Brower; Denise Smith; Chavis Everett; Karen Wilson; John Harkins; Neil Parrisher; Nadia McLaughlin; and Brian Hubbard.
The runners and the crews following them ended at Hinson Lake, in Rockingham, and were treated to a cookout by the Sheriff’s Office as thanks for their support of the tradition.
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.