Across four days and traversing Orange County from San Clemente to Los Alamitos, officers and personnel from local law enforcement took to the streets to raise funds for the Special Olympics.
After a two-year interruption caused by the pandemic, the Law Enforcement Torch Run was back in force.
On Thursday, the third day of the run in Orange County, a group of more than 20 Santa Ana Police Department officers and personnel, accompanied by 15 representatives from the Santa Ana Police Athletic and Activity League’s Santa Ana Winds running team, gathered for the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
The team assembled in a parking lot on Edinger Avenue to receive the torch from the Tustin Police Department before taking a winding route to the Santa Ana Police Department, where they handed off the torch to the Orange County District Attorney’s office team.
Joe Marty, Commander of Community Engagement for the Santa Ana Police Department, was happy to be able to run for the Special Olympics once again.
“I’ve done this for over 12 years,” Marty said. “We just want to give back.”
Although there were no Special Olympians in the run with Santa Ana PD, as the Games were still ongoing in Florida, a supporter with special needs, Taylor, did attend.
“He’s one of our biggest supporters,” Marty said. “He rode his bike and led us with the motor officers.”
The Santa Ana Winds runners, however, provided plenty of community support running alongside the SAPD.
“It was great. It was tiring,” said Lilia Fuentes, a Santa Ana Winds runner. “Everyone was glad to come out and run.”
To Comdr. Marty, events like the Torch Run are great ways to engage with different communities.
“We’ve always been partners with Special Olympics,” he said. “We just want to show our gratitude and thanks.”
In pre-pandemic years, the route concluded in Long Beach with the lighting of the flame for the Summer Games at California State University, Long Beach. This year, however, the Summer Games are being held in Orlando, Fla., for the first time.
“The Torch Run is a little different this year as we are still adjusting to COVID,” said Brian Szczerbinski, Assistant Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Southern California Special Olympics. “Rather than it only happening during a two-week span in the summer, agencies will host runs throughout the year when it works best for their officers.”
Despite the changes this year, Szczerbinski said about 1,500 officers were expected to run through 150 Southern California communities and cover more than 1,000 miles. He added that local agencies have raised more than $40,000 with a goal of $126,000.