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Carrying the flame

Lake Oswego employees take part in annual Torch Run for Special Olympics


by: VERN UYETAKE - Employees of the cities of Lake Oswego and West Linn were among runners carrying the Special Olympics torch through West Linn to Lake Oswego on Friday. In Oregon, more than 1,000 law enforcement personnel from federal, military, state, county and local agencies participate in the Torch Run, Special Olympics Oregons largest grassroots fundraising and public awareness program. The Special Olympics torch made its way through West Linn and Lake Oswego on Friday, bringing with it some local athletes and law enforcement officers.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run represents a longstanding tradition within the Special Olympics family. Each year, more than 800 law enforcement volunteers (Guardians of the Flame) and Special Olympics Oregon athletes relay the Flame of Hope to the Summer State Games, with their final destination being the games ceremonies at the Newberg High School stadium.

The torch passed through Clackamas County, including West Linn and Lake Oswego, on Friday, running from the West Linn Police Station, past Mary S. Young Park and then down Old River Road into Lake Oswego.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, officers and athletes carried the torch from Waterfront Park in Milwaukie through West Linn and into Lake Oswego. The West Linn Police Department was represented by recently retired Capt. Ron Schwartz, Sgt. Mike Boyd and Officer Brad Moyle’s daughter. The Lake Oswego Police Department was represented by Detective Lee Ferguson, Officer Dawn Pecoraro along with Julia Warren, assistant to the police chief, and Bonnie Hirshberger, citizen information specialist. by: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego Assistant to the Police Chief Julia Warren, left, and Citizen Information Specialist Bonnie Hirshberger were among the participants at the annual Special Olympics Torch Run.

Representatives from Milwaukie, Oregon City and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office also participated.

Boyd, in his fourth year running in the event, said supporting the Special Olympics and its athletes is important to him.

“It’s been really neat watching the Special Olympics kids running it and carrying the torch,” he said.

This was the third year Hirshberger ran in the event.

“It’s a great cause,” she said. “It’s a little thing I can do to raise awareness. It’s also a great opportunity to meet our neighboring law enforcement people. ... But mostly it’s a lot of fun — a great way to run with some fun people.”

This year, she guessed, as many as half of the people running were Special Olympics athletes.

“You meet some amazing athletes,” she said. “It’s great to see how excited they are while getting ready for the games, which were this past weekend.”

While running nearly 13 miles across Clackamas County, about 30 Special Olympics athletes and 22 officers took turns carrying the torch. Those needing a break or waiting for their turn to run could ride in the vintage open-air tour buses that followed them along the course.

The Clackamas portion of the relay started with a “mission moment” with an athlete talking about how important the Special Olympics are, and then an athlete ran in with the torch from Multnomah County.

“It’s a humbling moment, really,” Milwaukie Police Chief Bob Jordan said. For him, the run is personal. “My wife and I had a 4-year-old diagnosed with leukemia and died 14 months later. That experience is just a wakeup call that life is special. Life is precious; life is uncertain; every day is a gift.”

Jordan, who organized the Clackamas County portion of the run, ran the whole stretch. And, because the Oregon City-West Linn Arch Bridge is now open, the relay could run directly from one city to the next.

“We had a really good turnout,” Jordan said. “It was great to see so many folks coming together for such a good cause. ... This event is more about showcasing the Special Olympics and waving the flag just a bit.”

Because of safety concerns, in years past the torch was left unlit during the runs. However, officers took a chance and lit it this year, making the event more powerful.

Nearing the finish, all of the runners joined together for the final downhill stretch to the Lake Oswego Albertsons on State Street, where Special Olympics athlete Duane Cleary works. The store put on a barbecue celebration and reception for the runners before they turned over the torch to Washington County.

In Oregon, the combined effort of nearly 70 agencies participating in the Law Enforcement Torch Run has raised more than $630,000 in recent years’ events.

The final leg of the 2013 Torch Run took place on Saturday from McMinnville to Newberg. Officials then conducted the final torch procession at Newberg High School with officers, athletes and their coaches parading into the stadium for the games ceremonies.

Over the course of the weekend, about 3,000 Special Olympics Oregon athletes, coaches and volunteers competed for Olympic medals and ribbons in softball, golf, bocce, track and field and gymnastics.

The athletes have been training for a minimum of eight weeks for the State Summer Games and must have participated in one of many regional competitions to be eligible to compete last weekend.

Special Olympics Oregon serves the largest disability population in the state. Special Olympics Oregon provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run began in Wichita, Kan., in 1981. Now a year-round global event, the Law Enforcement Torch Run relay now happens in all 50 states and more than 30 foreign countries. In Oregon, more than 1,000 law enforcement personnel from federal, military, state, county and local agencies participate in the Torch Run, Special Olympics Oregon’s largest grassroots fundraising and public awareness program.

For more information about the Special Olympics, visit soor.org.

— Kara Hansen Murphey contributed to this story.



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