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'Flame of Hope' to Light Up Main Street Wednesday

Local law enforcement officials, Special Olympics athletes and supporters will converge on Main Street Westminster Wednesday for the annual Special Olympics Torch Run.

'Flame of Hope' to Light Up Main Street Wednesday

Don't be alarmed if you see large groups of local law enforcement officials running down the highway Wednesday morning. Cheer them on as they, along with Special Olympics athletes and other supporters, are running and biking to support the Special Olympics of Maryland.

Law Enforcement officers representing the police agencies throughout Carroll County will be on the run on Wednesday, June 6, beginning at 8 a.m., taking part in the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run Relay for Special Olympics Maryland.  Their mission: to escort and protect the Special Olympics ‘Flame of Hope’ as it makes its way toward the opening of the 42nd Anniversary Summer Games at Towson University, June 8 through 10.

Westminster Police Chief Jeffrey Spaulding said that he looks forward to this event each year because he enjoys working with the athletes and their families.

"It's the interaction with the athletes and families that really brings me back," Spaulding said. "They (athletes) are so appreciative and enjoy interacting with law enforcement. They are a part of our extended family."

Spaulding, who missed because he was , said he has enjoyed watching many athletes grow into adults.

"I see so many athletes I've met over the years who are now adults and still participating," Spaulding said. "Going to the Games is like a family reunion."

This year marks the 27th Anniversary of the Maryland Torch Run, a movement that began in 1986 with a handful of officers raising $5,000, and has grown into a true year-round effort that involves thousands of officers and raised $3.3 million in 2011, according to a news release. 

Since its inception, the Torch Run has taken very seriously its role as “Guardians of the Flame”, and the Relay is an important and celebrated part of every Special Olympics competition.

Six legs will depart from the corners of Carroll County to carry the Flame of Hope to Westminster. Those legs will begin at the following locations and tentative times:

    • Sykesville Leg – Departing the gymnasium at the Maryland Police Training Commission training facility at 8:15 a.m.  Runners will include the MSP Trooper Candidate Class, the MPTC Police Academy Class and runners from MSP, the Sykesville Police Department and the Springfield Police Department.  Carroll County Special Olympics Athletes Catherine Gardner and Jesse Shaffer will also be participating.
    • Hampstead/Manchester Leg – Departing the Manchester Police Department at 9 a.m.  Runners will include Hampstead and Manchester Police Department officers and staff, as well as Carroll County Special Olympics Athlete Woody Higgs.
    • Taneytown Leg – Departing the Taneytown Bowling Center at 9 a.m.  Runners will include the Taneytown Police Department, the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office and members of the Carroll County Crisis Response Team.  Carroll County Special Olympics Athlete Tammy Holibaugh will also be participating.
    • Mount Airy Leg – Departing the Mount Airy Fire Department at 8 a.m.  Troopers assigned to the Westminster Barrack of MSP will be running this leg, along with Carroll County Special Olympics Athlete Jessica Zuback.
    • Union Bridge/New Windsor Leg – Departing the Union Bridge Fire Department at 9 a.m.  Runners will include the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, the Carroll County Detention Center and the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office.  Carroll County Special Olympics Athletes Cody Watter will also be participating.
    • Torch Run Trek (walking leg) – Departing the  at 10 a.m.  Walkers will include representatives of the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office as well as a number of employees from and the City of WestminsterCarroll County Special Olympics Athlete Riley Snyder will also be participating in the Trek.
    • Final Leg – All runners from the various legs of the event will participate in the Final Leg of the Torch Run from to the Westminster Family Center.  Carroll County Special Olympics Athletes Andrew Nies and Mary Linthicum will also be participating in this leg of the event.

    The local portion of the Torch Run Relay is part of a much larger effort.  Statewide, the Maryland Torch Run Relay consists of four different legs – Eastern, Western, Central and Southern. Throughout the week, thousands of Torch Run volunteers will cover hundreds of miles, eventually converging on Towson where the individual flames will be united in the Final Leg Ceremony. Then officers from around the state will travel the final 2.5 miles to the Opening Ceremony at Towson University. 

    It is there that the Flame is handed off to the Special Olympics athletes who have the honor of taking the final lap with the torch and then lighting the cauldron and officially declaring the 2012 SOMD Summer Games open. 

    "The Torch Run Relay represents the culmination of a year-round involvement with Special Olympics Maryland by dedicated officers from around the state. These efforts include fundraising and awareness campaigns to help bring much needed funds to the thousands of athletes around Maryland," said Captain John Newnan, Law Enforcement Torch Run Director for Maryland, in a statement.

    "It provides the opportunity for law enforcement agencies from each county throughout Maryland to come together and celebrate the successes of the Law Enforcement Torch Run to benefit Special Olympics as we carry the Flame of Hope throughout the state and share a message of hope, acceptance and tolerance to the community at large. Our goal is to create inspiring moments where we can increase the communities’ awareness about possibilities, not about disabilities," Newnan said.

    The 42nd Anniversary SOMD Summer Games are set for June 8 to 10 at Towson University.  During the weekend, 1,400 athletes from around the state will go for gold in aquatics, athletics, bocce, cheerleading and softball.

    For more information about Special Olympics Maryland, the Torch Run Relay and the 2012 Summer Games, contact Jason Schriml at 410-242-1515 x118 or visit www.somd.org

    Most of the information in this post was taken from a police department news release.

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