Garden Grove PD carries a torch for Special Olympics


The Garden Grove PD has a special thing for the Special Olympics.

The look on the face of Steven Espinoza explains why.

“This is great,” the 13-year-old smiles in a video recently posted by Garden Grove TV3.

Steven, 13, diagnosed with autism, was one of about 10 Special Olympics athletes who participated in the 1-mile leg of the run from Garden Grove to Anaheim on May 30.

The torch was on its way from San Diego to USC for the 2014 SOSC Summer Games Invitational June 6-8.

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It was the second year Steven participated in the torch run with Garden Grove PD personnel, said his mother, Verna Espinoza, 48, an Information Technology Department Secretary for the City of Garden Grove.

Cops on motorcycles and in black-and-whites flashed their lights as they escorted the runners.

Steven, an incoming eighth-grader at Walton Intermediate, eagerly ran with teammates from his Special Olympics swim team, the “OC Sharks” based out of the Janet Evans Swim Complex in Fullerton.  Steven is a competitive backstroke and freestyle swimmer.

“He really looks forward to the Torch Run,” Espinoza said. “And he loves being around police officers. Now when he sees a police car, he feels connected to them.”

Kari Flood, a senior Community Service Officer for the Garden Grove PD, participated in the torch run. The 33-year-old has been involved with the Special Olympics since high school.

Flood continued participating in Special Olympics events when she started working at the Garden Grove PD in December 2009.

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Flood, who handles “cold reports” for the PD and also works DUI checkpoints and at the dispatch center, has been involved in the run and PD-sponsored fundraisers for the Special Olympics ever since.

“Special Olympics is designed to give children and adults with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to participate in sports and activities to strengthen their abilities and talents,” Flood said.

“It’s very motivating and rewarding. The Special Olympics is an amazing organization that’s out to make a difference, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Says Espinoza: “I think it’s awesome that our Police Department supports the Special Olympics athletes in our community  When they run side by side in a joint effort with the athletes, it communicates in a very big way that they care.  The smile on my son’s face says it all.”