Beginning Sunday, June 5, law enforcement officers across Illinois will take to the streets, highways and roads of the state, carrying the torch (“Flame of Hope”) to help raise funds for their hometown sports heroes – the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois. About 3,000 officers representing every branch of law enforcement will cover the 23 legs of the Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run®. (Download Torch Run Route Map & Kickoff Events at https://www.soill.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/2016LegRoutesMap-Kickoffs.pdf.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2016, the Torch Run is the single largest year-round fundraising vehicle benefiting Special Olympics Illinois. The annual intrastate relay and its various fundraising projects have two goals: to raise money and to gain awareness for the athletes who participate in Special Olympics Illinois. Each year, officers in Illinois run more than 1,500 miles carrying the “Flame of Hope” through the streets of their hometowns and deliver it to the State Summer Games in Normal in June.
On Friday, June 10, legs of the run from all over the state will converge on Normal. That evening at dusk, in a dramatic moment during the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics Illinois State Summer Games, officers from every leg of the Torch Run will enter Illinois State University’s Hancock Stadium with torches lit and hand off the “Flame of Hope” to Special Olympics athletes. When the cauldron is lit and the games declared open, more than 4,100 athletes will continue three days of competition and celebration.
When it began in three decades ago, the Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run® raised $14,000 in 1986. It has since grown into the largest fundraising vehicle for Special Olympics Illinois, raising nearly $39 million over 30 years. The Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run® raised more than $4.1 million in 2015, making it the second highest grossing program in the world.
Perhaps one of the most motivating factors for law enforcement officers is the knowledge that their efforts will benefit the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois. “We are involved in the Torch Run because it’s such a genuine project,” says Eric Smith, Director of the Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run® and retired Chief of the Sherman Police Department. “We’re helping Special Olympics athletes truly experience sports and competition and, in turn, transforming their lives.”
Presenting Sponsors are Dunkin’ Donuts and Shop ’n Save; Gold Medal Sponsors are Illinois Knights of Columbus and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois; Silver Medal Sponsors are Buffalo Wild Wings, Chicago Blackhawks and Texas Roadhouse; and Bronze Medal Sponsors are Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, Kane County Chiefs of Police Association, CARQUEST, Coca-Cola, Morreale Meat and US Foods.
“Thanks to the Law Enforcement Torch Run® and its corporate sponsors, Special Olympics Illinois is better able to reach more athletes and offer them more year-round training and competition opportunities. Special Olympics Illinois athletes are able to participate in the program free of charge thanks to sponsors like the Law Enforcement Torch Run®,” says Dave Breen, Special Olympics Illinois President and CEO.
In addition to receiving donations that support their run, officers raise funds in various ways throughout the year, including Polar Plunges, a Cop on Rooftop event with Dunkin’ Donuts, Plane Pulls at O’Hare International Airport and SIU Airport, Truck Convoys, raffles, bike rides, golf tournaments and more.
To get involved in Law Enforcement Torch Run® activities in your area, call Sandy Nash at Special Olympics Illinois (1-800-394-0562), email her at email@example.com or contact your local law enforcement agency.
Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 19 sports for more than 22,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities and more than 20,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics tranforms lives by empowering people with intellectual disabilities to realize their full potential in sports and in life. Special Olympics programs enhance physical fitness, motor skills, self-confidence, social skills and encourage family and community support. If you are interested in learning more about Special Olympics Illinois, volunteering or providing financial support to help make Special Olympics programs possible, contact your local Special Olympics agency, call 800-394-0562 or visit our website at www.soill.org.