Local cops serve as ‘Guardians of the Flame’ for Special Olympics

Law enforcement officers from around Pierce County escorted Special Olympic athletes and the Olympic flame as it traveled around the county last week prior to the games starting in Seattle this weekend. The flame was carried into the ceremony by Special Olympic athlete Amy Wollmershauser and Columbia, Mo. Police Sgt. Cyndi McLane. Photo by Steve Dunkelberger

Special Olympics athletes carrying the “Flame of Hope” made an official stop at LeMay: America’s Car Museum last week to mark the final leg of the flame’s journey around the world prior to the games in Seattle this week. 

Law enforcement officers from Tacoma, Pierce County and cities around the region served as the official “Guardians of the Flame” escorts for the Olympic torch and runners at LeMay. On Sunday, University of Washington’s Husky Stadium hosted the official greeting and opening ceremonies of the 4,000 Special Olympics athletes.

Since the first Special Olympics USA Games were held in 2006, members of law enforcement and Special Olympics athletes from across the United States have carried the Flame of Hope in the final leg run to usher the start of the national competition. Here in Pierce County, law enforcement agencies are involved with Special Olympics of Washington not only through the run itself but also the Polar Plunge, Tip a Cop and a basketball game sponsored by Fife Police Department to raise money and awareness for Special Olympic activities.

“Special Olympics is a movement that has been adopted by law enforcement officers throughout America,” said Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor. “This shows the heart of law enforcement officers. It shows a central aspect of who they are. It shows that they believe and practice the idea that we need to be involved in the welfare of people around us.”

The Special Olympics does more than give young athletes a chance to compete, he said. The games show that we are all connected and should serve each other.  

“I believe that it is a kind of antidote for what ails America and what ails our communities,” Pastor said. “I believe that America is far too self-absorbed and self-centered. We are far too quick to see other people as either unworthy or somehow upsetting to our comfort and self-satisfaction. We fail to recognize the obligations we have to those around us. I believe that we need to step outside that mindset and recognize that our own well-being is tied to the well-being of others. Look at these Special Olympics athletes. Look at the people who work on the games and look at the parents and family members and look at the law enforcement officers who are working on the sidelines. When you look at these people, it is difficult not to get caught up in the idea that we owe one another. We are at our best when supporting one another – we are at our strongest when we step forward to be strong for others.”

Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics is a volunteer movement that was established by members of the law enforcement community to support Special Olympics. The effort’s mission is to increase awareness and raise funds for the Special Olympics movement.

The 2018 games will celebrate the Special Olympics movement and its 50th anniversary; promote the ideals of acceptance and inclusion through sport; and showcase athletes from throughout the U.S. and the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. The 2018 USA Games will also highlight Special Olympics’ work in sport, education, health and community building. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5.7 million athletes in 172 countries. 

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