Police from West Hartford, Farmington, State Police, and other area departments gathered with Special Olympics athletes and fans in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square on Thursday afternoon.
By Ronni Newton. Photos by Hunter Marotto and Ronni Newton
Local police officers and Special Olympics athletes, sweating but smiling in the warm sun, ran down South Main Street and turned onto Memorial Drive in West Hartford Thursday afternoon as several legs of the 2019 Law Enforcement Torch Run converged on Blue Back Square for an end-of-day rally.
As the crowd cheered, the torches were passed to West Hartford Police Chief Vernon Riddick and Special Olympics athlete Raishaun Holloway, and tother the pair jogged a short distance to the Blue Back Square courtyard stage for a brief ceremony.
Local officers and Special Olympics athletes have been running throughout the state, carrying the Torch with its “Flame of Hope,” to raise awareness of Special Olympics’ year-round sports, health and fitness programs, and to inspire inclusion and acceptance for people of all abilities. The Law Enforcement Torch Run concludes Friday when the cauldron at Southern Connecticut State University is lit with the torch, kicking off the start of the weekend’s Special Olympics Summer Games.
In all, between Wednesday and Friday, more than 1,500 officers participated in this year’s three-day Torch Run, carrying the Special Olympics torch with its “Flame of Hope” more than 530 miles, passing it from town to town across the state.
“Thank you so much for your support,” Jackie Turro, senior director of special events for Special Olympics Connecticut, told the law enforcement officers and other participants as they gathered in West Hartford.
Riddick welcomed everyone to West Hartford, and also thanked his fellow law enforcement officers for participating in the Torch Run.
“You guys are my heroes,” iHeart Radio’s Renee DiNino, who emceed the rally, said to the athletes as well as the law enforcement officers.
“To all of the athletes, I wish you the best of luck this weekend,” said Law Enforcement Torch Run Co-Director Rob Didato. Fellow Co-Director Tom Madera also thanked everyone, and noted that worldwide the Torch Run raised $56 million last year for Special Olympics athletes around the world.
“I look forward to seeing our athletes bring home the gold,” Madera said.
Jay Bodwell, a Torch Run organizer with the Middletown Police Department, said that the event would not be able to happen without community support. “We are spreading awareness, inclusion, and acceptance,” he said.
Mayor Shari Cantor also expressed her thanks, to the athletes for their hard work and passion, and to the coaches, police, and Blue Back Square management and businesses for their support of the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Blue Back Square businesses, including World of Beer, Charming Charlie, Barnes & Noble, Poké-Man, Flemings, The Cook & The Bear, Bar Louie, Trollbeads, Balos, Woof Gang, CycleBar, and Vinted, all provided special discounts or offers in support of the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Although West Hartford officers participate in the event every year, this is the first time in more than 10 years that an end-of-day rally has been held in town, Turro said.
The Special Olympics Connecticut Summer Games will take place throughout the weekend on the campus of Southern Connecticut State University and other sites throughout the New Haven area. The public is welcome to attend. For more information, click here.
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