A University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Police Department team ran the Flame of Hope 15 miles from the Knoxville campus to Alcoa Wednesday in support of Special Olympics Tennessee.
Six officers ran to Blount County, where they handed off the torch to the Alcoa Police Department. The event was part of the statewide Law Enforcement Torch Run, which raises awareness and funds for the Special Olympics movement. Proceeds from the run will support more than 18,000 Special Olympics athletes across the state.
“The run was a way to showcase the Volunteer spirit and to serve the athletes,” said UTPD Assistant Chief Sean Patterson.
“These athletes have had to overcome tremendous adversity in their lives to compete, and they do it at a high level,” he added. “If they can do that, then I can sacrifice a little bit in the heat to stand up for them and support them.”
Following a meet-and-greet with some Knoxville Special Olympics athletes and partners, the officers began the run down Volunteer Boulevard and through South Knoxville toward Alcoa. Chancellor Donde Plowman stopped by to meet the athletes and cheer on the officers.
For Officer Chris Colby, the event was his second Law Enforcement Torch Run. He participated previously as a state trooper in South Carolina.
Of the Special Olympics athletes, he said, “Their mindset to never give up and to keep pushing forward is inspiring for me.
“A lot of times in law enforcement you see the worst in people,” he said. “Here you see the best of the best and see the kids and adults get out and give it their best.”
Other UTPD participants included Sergeant Lindsey Gardner, Corporal Lester Gonzalez, Officer Ethan Long, and Officer Mary Bennett.
The East Tennessee portion of the Law Enforcement Torch Run also featured the Lenoir City Police Department, Alcoa Police Department, and Maryville Police Department.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the Law Enforcement Torch Run. Special Olympics Tennessee aims to complete the Torch Run across the state by the end of July. So far it has covered 436 miles statewide.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, Special Olympics Tennessee will not host the annual state Summer Games. Plans are under way for three regional Summer Games that will allow for more Special Olympics athletes and partners to participate in this year’s events.
Lindsey Owen (865-974-6375, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lola Alapo (865-974-1094, email@example.com)