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Law enforcement officers from the three Jefferson County-based agencies gathered at the courthouse in Monticello on Monday, April 15.
Dressed in matching special Olympics t-shirts, the deputies, correctional officers and police officers gathered with one specific cause in mind – carrying the torch for the Florida Special Olympics.
The torch and flame are iconic and enduring links between the ancient and modern Olympic games; the lighting or carrying of the flame remains an integral part of the modern Olympics, just as much as it was in Ancient Olympia when the now world-renowned games begun.
In ancient Greece, athletes and onlookers to the Olympics believed that the torch carried a sacred flame that was lit from the sun's rays.
Today, the flame and its torch are more iconic than truly symbolic, but all the same, the act of carrying the flame in any form of the Olympics is still a worthy goal.
On March 14-21, the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games was held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, but on Friday, May 17, Florida will host their State Summer Games for the Special Olympics.
The Special Olympics is a global movement that seeks to provide an opportunity for inclusion, where every person is welcomed and challenged, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.
Whether it is the world or state-wide games, the Special Olympics provides a platform for people of all abilities to compete in the sports that joins the world together.
Each year, beginning months before the Florida Special Olympic games are held, the Olympic torch is carried by local and state law enforcement officers all the way to the Opening Ceremony of Florida’s annual State Summer Games.
Known as “The Law Enforcement Torch Run,” the run began nationally in 1981 when a former Wichita, KS police chief created the event with the hope of helping law enforcement officials become more active in their community and support their local Special Olympic games.
In Florida, the Law Enforcement Torch Run is the largest fund-raising event for the state's Special Olympics.
All throughout the state, police chiefs, officers, sheriffs, deputies, agents and cadets from virtually every branch of federal, state, county and municipal law enforcement gather to carry the torch and run in honor of the games.
Funds for the state's Special Olympics are raised for the games through the sale of the Torch Run clothing and local fundraising events.
Florida's Law Enforcement Torch Run began at the end of March, with Escambia County's law enforcement taking the torch first on March 25.
From there, the torch passed into the hands of Santa Rosa County law enforcement (March 26), Okaloosa County law enforcement (March 27) and Walton County law enforcement (March 28).
Throughout the end of March and beginning of April, the torch made its way through the counties until reaching Madison County on April 12, then Jefferson County on April 15.
Beginning at 9 a.m., the law enforcement officers who serve and protect Jefferson County through the Monticello Police Department (MPD), Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) and Jefferson Correctional Institution (JCI) gathered at the Courthouse Circle in Monticello to begin their leg of the Torch Run.
Beginning at the Courthouse Circle, the staff and law enforcement officers from Jefferson County's three agencies progressed down South Jefferson Street for almost a mile before ending their public torch run at the Winn-Dixie parking lot plaza.
Officers at JCI would eventually hand over the torch into the care and keeping of Wakulla County Law Enforcement.
“The staff at Jefferson Correctional Institution were honored to participate in this worthy cause for the Special Olympics,” said Catherine Tuten, the Secretary Specialist at the Jefferson Correctional Institution.
Jefferson County Sheriff Mac McNeill echoed Tuten's sentiments.
“JCSO is proud to support the exceptional athletes who will compete in this year's Florida Special Olympics,” said Sheriff McNeill. “This is truly a worthy cause.”
Sheriff McNeill also commended the staff and officers at JCI, who planned this year’s Jefferson County torch run.
“They really spearheaded this event. Their dedication made it possible for us to participate,” adds McNeill.
“We were happy to assist,” says Monticello Police Chief Fred Mosley. “Anything we can do to get involved in and support the community, we will be happy to do at any time.”
The Law Enforcement Torch Run will be continuing until May 17, when the final leg of the run will lead into the summer games' opening ceremony.
The torch and flame will be carried by law enforcement into the Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, in Lake Buena Vista, FL, as the highlight of the game's opening ceremony.
For more information about the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, visit letr.org.