Athletes, police unite to support Special Olympics 0
The Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics made its way through the streets of three county communities yesterday.
Members of the law enforcement community and local members of the Pembroke and Area Special Olympics gathered at Riverside Park in Pembroke early Tuesday morning, at CFB Petawawa in the late morning and Barry's Bay in the afternoon, to participate in the annual event.
Gayle Cayen, a five-pin bowler with the Pembroke and Area Special Olympics, is one of the eight local athletes travelling to Kingston at the end of the month to compete in the Ontario Special Olympics Spring Games.
At the early morning event she noted the run was "very, very, very important. Technically if we didn't have the (Torch Run) especially, we wouldn't have the money raised, donated to us for the Special Olympics. Don't get us wrong, we are not a charity - we are a sports organization. In other words, we are a family, a family of athletes."
For the Pembroke run the torch travelled from Riverside Park down Pembroke Street West to the Pembroke Legion Branch 72. The athletes and supporters made a brief stop at city hall were Mayor Ed Jaycno met with them.
This year marks the 25th year the Law Enforcement Torch Run has taken place in Ontario. Created by an American police chief who attended a Special Olympics event, the run has spread to law enforcement agencies around the world.
Eleven years ago, Eastern Ontario zone co-ordinator for the Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics, Bill Dickson was 'voluntold' to organize the runs."I didn't know that much about the Special Olympics or the torch run and I went to my first opening ceremonies in Peterborough and it just blew me away," recalled Mr. Dickson. "We went in and the athletes were all there and they were so excited about the fact they were there and I started watching the games and meeting the athletes and that was just it. I have been getting more and more involved as the years go on."
Since the Special Olympics were introduced in Ontario, the torch run has raised in excess of $26 million. The first games in 1986 had 3,420 athletes registered. Last year over 17,500 athletes competed.
The purpose of the run is to raise money and awareness and hang out with the athletes.
For Mr. Dickson, the athletes oath struck a cord with him.
"(It reads) 'Let me win but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt.' Ever since then I knew that Special Olympics is something we need to do," explained Mr. Dickson.
The runners and supporters were treated to breakfast at Pembroke Legion Branch 72, where Pembroke and Area Special Olympics announced its spring team.
"Every year we receive the royal treatment that we don't get anywhere else in Eastern Ontario. The Royal Canadian Legion in Pembroke puts on a breakfast for the athletes and the torch run supporters and it's a phenomenal event," said Mr. Dickson.
The local Legion donated $500 to the run and in return Mr. Dickson presented a plaque to honour the local Legion's 85th anniversary.
This year the athletes raised over $5,500 to help with their transportation costs to events.
One officer noted that this is the last run for the Pembroke Police Department.
Cyndi Mills is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist