Member of New York State Law Enforcement Also Recognized for Outstanding Achievement

Aurora, CO – Athletes and a law enforcement partner representing Special Olympics New York earned several distinguished awards and recognitions at last week’s Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) International Conference in Aurora, Colorado. The statewide Special Olympics New York program earned the most prestigious fundraising award, the Diamond Award, for raising $2.1 million in 2019.

Athletes Kayla McKeon, of Syracuse, and Ed Lawless, of Albany, received the LETR International Executive Council Athlete Award, the highest honor bestowed upon an athlete by LETR recognizing those who positively impact both LETR and Special Olympics. Three athletes from across the country receive this award annually.

Additionally, retired Captain of Yonkers Police Department and current New York State LETR Director Joe Barca earned the John Carion Unsung Hero Award. Statewide Volunteer Photographer Ken Smith, of Cheektowaga, won the 3rd Place Professional Award for a photo he took at the 2018 Peter Aquilone Memorial Floor Hockey Tournament.

New York’s leadership was a centerpiece of the international conference, as Special Olympics New York Athlete Kevin Brown addressed participants and spoke on behalf of the 6 million athletes across the country who benefit from LETR programs. Brown was selected last year as a member of the LETR International Executive Council and serves as a member of the Special Olympics New York Board of Directors.

“Each year, we are fortunate to work with more than 6,000 law enforcement members across the state on activities and fundraising events that engage tens of thousands of New Yorkers in support of our athletes,” said Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “New York’s LETR team is the best of the best; and Joe, Ed, and Kayla each bring their own strengths to the program. Our sincerest congratulations to each of them on these international recognitions, and thanks to all of our LETR partners throughout New York for their continued support.”

“I have learned a great deal from participating in Special Olympics,” said Ed Lawless during his acceptance speech. “Not just how to play the game, but things like physical fitness, strength, confidence, determination, competition, sportsmanship, pride, independence, acceptance, friendship, and courage.”

“I am so very honored and humbled to accept this award,” said Kayla McKeon during her speech. “I have to give so much credit for my life achievements to Special Olympics. It was at a Special Olympics event that I did my first speech and found out how much I really liked it. It led me to speak to schools, colleges, and now all over the nation as the first federal registered lobbyist with Down syndrome.”

“I accept this award on behalf of all torch runners across these United States and the world,” said Joe Barca during his speech. “You all out there do the same thing that I do, just going out and doing what we can for the athletes.”

The LETR International Conference is the signature award presentation for the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which is Special Olympics’ largest national fundraiser. Law enforcement who volunteer for LETR are the ceremonial Guardians of the Flame, carrying the Flame of Hope throughout our country to local, regional, state, and national competitions. The International Conference, this year held in Aurora, CO, is LETR’s way of thanking those who make their runs possible.


About Special Olympics New York

Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 67,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with more than 150 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers.  Learn more at www.specialolympicsNY.org and #SpecialOlympicsNY.