CRESTVIEW — Florida law enforcement agencies reportedly have raised more than $500,000 for the Special Olympics.
Officers across the state carried torches, sold commemorative T-shirts and hats and collected corporate donations for the sports organization that celebrates intellectually disabled people’s achievements.
"The money will be filtered into each county to use on Special Olympics," said Kim Christopher, Okaloosa Special Olympics’ administrative assistant.
Officers from the Crestview Police Department, Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office and Florida Highway Patrol on Wednesday morning gathered in the Publix Supermarket parking lot for this year's Law Enforcement Torch Run. The officers took turns carrying the torch as they ran up south Ferdon Boulevard. Police cruisers escorted them from the parking lot to the Veterans Memorial in Downtown Crestview.
"Its all in the name of Special Olympics," said Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ron Gay, who helped coordinate the event.
Officers who serve in other parts of the county, including Fort Walton Beach and Niceville, joined in.
"This annual event is geared towards awareness, so we do what we can,” said Kathy Duke, an officer from the Fort Walton Beach Police Department.
The Crestview event was one of two torch events for the officers; several also ran in Fort Walton Beach later that day. The torch run had taken place in Escambia and Santa Rosa County, prior to Wednesday's event.
Many of the officers, including Crestview community service police officer Wanda Hulion, met some of the athletes involved.
"This is what is it all about," she said. "It’s about doing what we can to support them."
Several of the Special Olympics coaches cheered for the officers as they finished the run at the memorial. However, although they appreciate the officers’ efforts, the volunteers said they would like to see more community involvement.
"A lot of people are not aware that we do have programs up here for Special Olympics," coach Kathy Ellis said.
See specialolympicsokaloosa.org for more information on the Okaloosa County Special Olympics.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.