When normally hard-boiled law enforcement officers were first approached to be "huggers" at the finish line at the Special Olympics, it was difficult to get them to participate. But Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Chabries said that the officers were very touched by the experience and came back each year after.
"These big and little kids need love and we in law enforcement are very capable of providing it," Chief Chabries said. "Now I can't think of a law enforcement agency in the state that's not involved."Throughout the state, Utahns will have the opportunity to "Run a Cop Out of Town," and contribute to the Utah Special Olympics during the Torch Run today through May 23. A torch lit by Gov. Norm Bangerter will begin a 13-day, 1,400-mile odyssey through Utah. A kick-off breakfast sponsored by the East Mill Creek Lions Club and Salt Lake Foot Printers began the event this morning. The Battle of the Badges will take place tonight from 5-10 p.m. at Draper Park and will feature a barbecue, bonfire, pep rally, bike race, carnival games and competitions against law enforcement personnel.
As the torch makes its way through 18 cities in Utah, 600 law enforcement officers will be running the 1,400 miles hoping to raise $50,000 for Utah Special Olympics. The summer games will be held May 24-26 at Brigham Young University.
Officer B.L. Smith is on a three-month sabbatical serving as Torch Run director. He is signing up officers to run a leg of the torch run when it comes to their communities.
Hardee's will be sponsoring Special Olympic activities at locations throughout the state, and the Good Sam Club will provide transportation and refreshments for the runners.
"Leg" leaders for the Torch Run are: Salt Lake County, Det. Robert Mitchell; Utah County, Lt. Mike Fenton; Juab, Sanpete and Millard, Lt. Scott Duncan; Severe, Beaver, Iron and Garfield Counties, C.O.P. Pete Hansen and Bill Weaver; Washington and Kane, Sgt. Rymal Hinton, Officer Russell Peck; Washington, Kane and Garfield, C.O.P. Martin Nay; Emery, Wayne, Grand and Juab, Sgt. Billy Hunt, Charlotte Salyer; Carbon County, Chief Deputy Mike Martinez, Officers Ed Tallerico, Ed Chavez; Uinta and Duchesne, Lt. George Chino; Uinta, Duchesne and Wasatch, Deputy Rick Harrison, Nancy Bostick; Summit, Cache and Box Elder, Officers Kent Kiernan and Michael Nelson; Weber and Davis, Sgt. Mike Daley, Officer Skip Smith and Wendover-Tooele, Lt. Ken Bryant, Sgt. Betty Carter and C.O.P. Jess Peterson.
Those interested in supporting the Torch Run or volunteering for the Special Olympics may call their local law enforcement agency or call 561-GOLD in Salt Lake City. Volunteers are needed in all areas for the Torch Run and Summer Games.