MASSENA - Hundreds of vehicles drove along state Route 37 between Ogdensburg and Massena Friday, but only a select handful had the opportunity to walk and run along the paved road, carrying the Special Olympics torch.
More than 100 St. Lawrence County law enforcement officials and Special Olympics athletes took part in the annaul New York Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics yesterday, each covering different legs of the nearly 40-mile journey.
The New York State Police, Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, St. Lawrence County Sheriffs Department, Ogdensburg Police Department, Customs and Border Patrol, Massena Police Department and the SUNY Canton Police Department all participated in the cause.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run is a global movement of law enforcement that does different fundraisers and torch runs for Special Olympics athletes. Here in New York we have at least 40 legs that take place starting April 17, and they lead all the way into our State Summer Games, which this year are in Buffalo on June 6 and 7. On June 6, well have a big torch run into opening ceremonies at the State Summer Games. This is the St. Lawrence County leg that goes all the way from Ogdensburg to Massena, Associate Director of Development for Special Olympics New York Erin McCartan said. There are 15 legs that range from two to four miles and a lot of the law enforcement officers will take more than one leg at a time, but its basically like a relay until they get here.
The run on Friday leads up to the North Country Summer Games, which take place today at SUNY Canton.
Following the long adventure, the Massena Elks Lodge hosted an after-party lunch for all Torch Run participants.
The main purpose of (the event) is raising awareness for the athletes. The way that it works is - we have the short sleeve and long sleeve t-shirts that people can buy for $20 and thats how we fundraise money, Ms. McCartan said. Local businesses always chip in also and make donations anywhere from $100 all the way up to $500 or $1,000. So its partnering between law enforcement and Special Olympics and raising funds and awareness for the program.
Earlier in the week it appeared that rain was going to be a factor for the event, but officers could not have been more satisfied with how everything went.
I actually started this run and was the one who coordinated it so I like to still come back and run it all the time, New York State Police Capt. Michael J. Girard said. For 15 or 16 years now the Massena Elks Lodge has donated their lunch with help I think from the local Pizza Hut. They put out the pizza and usually show a video of the actual Special Olympics - what they actually do in Potsdam or Canton this year. Its really nice.
One part that really stood out for me is - as we rounded the final turn, coming down to the town hall, one of the Special Olympians actually reached out for me to hold his hand as we ran down the street and that was near and dear to my heart, Troop B Commander Major. Richard C. Smith Jr. added. Having the opportunity to bond with that young man as we finished the race was great.