“Awesome!” “Fun!” “Excited!”
The descriptors were used over and over by celebrated Special Olympians when asked how it felt to join La Habra Police Department personnel on June 2 for their leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run relay.
The event is an awareness and fundraising campaign for Special Olympics Southern California.
Law enforcement agencies, along with the individual runners, seek sponsorships from businesses and individuals, which then go to the Special Olympics.
This year, the La Habra PD contingent included 11 police explorers, seven sworn officers and three civilian employees — all who ran a 3.2-mile course through the city.
Six Special Olympians followed the pack in vintage vehicles, smiling and waving the entire time.
“Aside from the fact that you are supporting your community, you are supporting a great cause,” Det. Noah Daniels said. “Not only are you connecting with your community, but with these athletes.”
Special Olympian Christian Valdez, 21, is a veteran swimmer on the OC Sharks Swim Team who has participated in several torch runs with multiple agencies.
“It makes me feel really comfortable,” Valdez said of the opportunity to participate.
In past years, Valdez even has gotten to carry the torch.
“I cry every time,” said Martha England, Valdez’s mom. “From a parent’s standpoint, it helps families that have kids with autism. It gives (the police) a chance to interact with him and him a chance to interact with (the police), so it’s a win-win.”
The La Habra PD team took the torch from the Brea PD on Lambert Road, just west of Puente Street.
With a police escort, La Habra’s group traveled west on Lambert to Harbor Boulevard, turned north onto Harbor and ran to Whittier Boulevard.
The team traveled west along Whittier until they reached Euclid Street, where they turned south toward the police station, where they were greeted with cheers.
Along the route, the special athletes were encouraged by supporters in passing cars and people on the streets.
Whittier police were scheduled to take the torch from La Habra on Monday.
The Flame of Hope started its journey May 30 in Chula Vista and will be carried 1,500 miles through 200 Southern California cities by dozens of law enforcement agencies.
The California Highway Patrol will carry the torch to its final stop in Long Beach on June 9.
The Special Olympics Southern California Summer Games take place June 10-11.
La Habra PD’s Community Service Officer II Christina Nunez organizes her agency’s leg of the torch run and fundraising efforts. Thanks to her efforts, and those of several other department employees, LHPD was able to raise $1,400 for Special Olympics.
Anyone wanting to make a donation can go to the Special Olympics Southern California website sosc.org/orangecounty.