The law enforcement community is known as a close-knit family. But it’s also an extended family.
For decades now, police departments around the nation have supported the Special Olympics and its athletes. The Montgomery County Police Department and a host of other agencies within the county—including the Gaithersburg Police Department—are no exception. Gaithersburg PD was one of 10 county agencies to participate recently in the local iteration of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, a long-standing event designed to raise money and awareness for the Special Olympics.
“The Torch Run is an event that is sponsored by local law enforcement in an effort to support the Special Olympics of Maryland,” said Officer Dan Lane, public information officer for the Gaithersburg Police Department. “The torch is lit and we run in solidarity with the athletes. Then afterwards, we all get together and we build that bond.”
The idea began in 1981 when a Kansas police chief was looking for ways to help police officers become more active in their community. Within a couple of years, the Torch Run had gone national.
Along with Special Olympics athletes, law enforcement professionals carry torches across their local region and as part of various opening ceremonies celebrations for the games themselves, both at local levels and higher.
“It’s like another family that we all have,” Lane said. “We know each other’s lives. Relationships are built that last a lifetime. We talk on Facebook or talk on the phone or we email each other throughout the course of the year.”
To date, Law Enforcement Torch Runs have raised about $600 million for Special Olympics programs. According to Barbara Natoli, an officer with the Montgomery County Police Department and department liaison for Special Olympics Maryland, Montgomery County’s event on May 31 raised about $9,300. It was the 32nd year Montgomery County police held a Torch Run for Special Olympics Maryland.
The run culminated June 9 at Towson University, where the flame will help kick off the 2017 Summer Games for Special Olympics Maryland.
According to Natoli, Montgomery County PD will hold other events throughout the year for Special Olympics Maryland.
“With some of the athletes, it takes a few interactions, but once that bond is built you just continue to engage with them,” Lane said. “We admire their dedication. You go to their events and celebrations. It’s just seeing them overcome numerous obstacles to reach a goal, and not letting anything stop them. We in law enforcement know what that’s like. We have our own obstacles that we have to overcome, and these athletes are doing the same thing.”