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Torch Run brings out athlete in everyone

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Chris Caraveo's picture
TOLLESON UNION HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS Martin Ubaldo, left, and Kristian Villanar brave the heat as they run with city of Tolleson employee Richard Tso May 4 along Van Buren Street during the Law Enforcement Torch Run. More than 50 law enforcement and special Olympians from local schools participated in the run. To see all photos from this shoot, go to www.westvalleyview.com/pictures. View photo by Jordan Christopher
TOLLESON UNION HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS Martin Ubaldo, left, and Kristian Villanar brave the heat as they run with city of Tolleson employee Richard Tso May 4 along Van Buren Street during the Law Enforcement Torch Run. More than 50 law enforcement and special Olympians from local schools participated in the run. To see all photos from this shoot, go to www.westvalleyview.com/pictures. View photo by Jordan Christopher

Students with disabilities join Tolleson officials in annual run to support Special Olympics Arizona

Tolleson Union High School student Andres Rico had one goal in mind for the Special Olympics.

To win.

First, he and about 100 people from Tolleson ran through the city streets in support of Special Olympics athletes.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run began April 30 and ended May 5 with the mission to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics Arizona statewide.

Participants carried seven torches around the state, culminating in the lighting of the main torch at the Special Olympics Summer Games.

The torches are not lighted during the week’s runs but they all met at Raymond S. Kellis High School on May 5 to light the “Flame of Hope” during the opening ceremony.

Southwest Valley cities participated in carrying the torch on May 4. The run started in Buckeye, then went to Goodyear, Avondale and Tolleson before continuing through Phoenix.

This has been law enforcement’s charity for a long time,” Tolleson Chief of Police Wayne Booher said. “We’ve supported it for years.”

Joining Tolleson’s public safety officials were teachers, school administrators and about 50 students with disabilities, including Rico, who ran the 400 meters at the state Special Olympics.

Earlier in the week, people in Prescott Valley, Sedona and Cottonwood carried the torch, according to Law Enforcement Torch Run Mountain and Monument Area Director Gabie Salomon.

It’s pretty chaotic because the torch runs all across the state,” Salomon, a Tolleson native, said about helping to organize the event. “It means a lot just from a family perspective, having a sibling who is an athlete.”

The program began in 1981 when Wichita, Kan., Chief of Police Richard LaMunyon saw an urgent need to raise funds for and increase awareness of Special Olympics.

Depending on where the torch is, people have ran, walked, cycled or kayaked their portion of the event.

Booher said he’s participated in the event for about 25 years. On May 4, he biked the city’s stretch of the run, which began on Van Buren Street at 107th Avenue and ended at the police station near 83rd Avenue.

It’s great to see them all out here and take part in this,” Booher said.

He credited Intergovernmental and Public Affairs Manager Pilar Sinawi for starting the effort to have students with disabilities participate in the run. Before she began her position with the city, police and fire officials were the main runners.

Now, others join the city’s public safety officials in breaking a sweat.

I always say the torch run is synonymous for the first 100-degree day in Arizona,” Booher said. “Last year, it was a little bit cooler but you got to roll with it. What are you going to do? It’s Arizona. At least we’re not running in 3 feet of snow.”

Kelsey Hawker, a development coordinator for the Law Enforcement Torch Run, said she started volunteering with the program while she attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. When she graduated, Hawker refused to move back to California.

From the second I started getting to know the athletes, I was completely hooked,” she said. “Working with them has made me a better person and has inspired me to never give up when obstacles are ahead.”

The program raised about $1.45 million in gross revenue in 2016. The goal for 2017 is $1.6 million. All money raised for the Law Enforcement Torch Run directly supports Special Olympics athletes in Arizona and their supporting programs.

Aside from the run, the Law Enforcement Torch Run puts on events such as tip-a-cop, a polar plunge and golf tournaments.

Tolleson Mayor Ana Tovar walked the event in high heels, saying she looks forward to the event.

It’s just inspiring to see so many kids on this 100-degree day, running, walking, riding a skateboard, doing whatever they can to support an awesome organization,” Tovar said. “And we have our policemen that are here that are leading the charge with the run. They’re the guardians of the flame. And definitely the guardians of our community as well, too.”

 

Chris Caraveo can be reached at ccaraveo@westvalleyview.com.

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