REGION — Law enforcement officers will carry the torch for the Special Olympics summer games through San Diego County on May 30 and May 31, as it heads to its final destination of Cal State University Long Beach.
The annual law enforcement torch run is a way for officers to help support the games. Each police officer, firefighter, FBI agent and border patrol officer who participates donates $20 for an event T-shirt and games contribution. Many officers give beyond the minimum amount. Residents can also donate to law enforcement teams online.
All monies collected in San Diego County go to county Special Olympics athletes’ training and events, which are provided to athletes at no cost. This year 100 county athletes will participate in the summer games.
“Donations is what it’s all about,” Oceanside police Detective Robert Moore said.
The 53-mile torch run through the county begins in Chula Vista on May 30, passes through San Diego and Mission Bay, and stops in La Jolla. The following day it continues through North County coastal cities to Camp Pendleton.
Stretches of the run between city borders vary from one to five miles. More than 17 different law enforcement agencies will participate over the two days. Along the route business owners and residents cheer on runners.
Oceanside police will pick up the torch from Carlsbad police at the city’s southern border on Coast Highway and run 3.6 miles to the entrance of Camp Pendleton. The torch handoff from Carlsbad police is expected to happen at about 10:15 a.m. Oceanside police will reach the Camp Pendleton front gate by approximately 11 a.m. This year 20 Oceanside police officers are expected to run.
Moore has participated in the annual torch run for 12 years. He said Special Olympics athletes often join the run. Some athletes run with officers in the final stretch just before the torch is handed to the next law enforcement team. This way they can experience the joy of getting to the finish line. Other Special Olympics athletes run the whole distance with officers.
The Special Olympics games bring together a wide range of athletes with intellectual disabilities. The games give athletes opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy. During the summer games athletes from nine regions compete in track and field, swimming, gymnastics, basketball, golf and bocce ball.
“It’s hard not to fall in love with the athletes and how amazing they are,” Amanda Hambly, Special Olympics San Diego County Region development manager, said.
Hambly said while all athletes are there to win, a high level of sportsmanship is displayed as athletes support each other.
The Special Olympics summer games take place at Cal State University Long Beach on June 10 and June 11.
Qualifying San Diego regional spring games will be held at Carlsbad High School on May 27.