Honoring the Guardians of the Flame for National Police Week

Torch Run

Picture this.

You’re standing at a crosswalk, waiting for the signal to cross, when you notice something unusual: A group of runners sprinting past, all wearing matching shirts.

The runners are led by an officer and a Special Olympics athlete. Together, they hold a flaming torch.

What you just seen is one leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run. And now that you’ve witnessed that inspiring sight, you probably want to know more about it.

You’ve come to the right place! For National Police Week 2021, we’re celebrating the Law Enforcement Torch Run and everything it means to our athletes.

What is the Law Enforcement Torch Run?

The Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) is the largest year-round fundraising movement for Special Olympics New York. But it’s so much more than that. LETR stands for awareness, inclusion, and respect for people with disabilities.

The Torch Run began in 1981 with Wichita, Kansas Police Chief Richard LaMunyon. Richard saw the event as a way for local law enforcement officers to support athletes in their communities. The movement soon expanded nationwide, eventually becoming the largest fundraising and public awareness group for Special Olympics.

Many state Special Olympics chapters have their own LETRs, and New York is no exception.

When and where do New York’s Torch Runs take place?

Often and all over! In a normal year, approximately 6,000 officers—known as Guardians of the Flame—carry the Flame of Hope more than 300 miles throughout New York State. After 56 legs (or routes), the Flame reaches its final destination at the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics NY Summer Games.

But that’s not all. LETR helps us year-round with fundraisers such as the following:

  • Polar Plunges – You know what these are—hundreds of daring individuals dive into the coldest water they can find (in-person or at home) to raise money for our athletes. Many LETR partners participate or organize these events.
  • Cops on Top/Go for the Gold – An annual fundraiser in which our athletes and law enforcement partners greet guests outside Dunkin’ Donuts locations and collect donations. Don’t forget to look up—you might see a cop on top of the roof!
  • Law & Orders – In partnership with local restaurants, our partners in Law Enforcement raise funds by serving customers. And yes, they do accept tips (for our athletes, of course!).

What is National Police Week?

Celebrated every year in May, National Police Week is the perfect time to honor and remember those who lost their lives in service to their communities. We also salute the officers still working today.

For the athletes, coaches, volunteers, staff, and supporters of Special Olympics New York, we celebrate this week by thanking our partners in law enforcement for all they do. And to honor those who’ve lost their lives, we have several memorial legs of the Torch Run, such as the following:

Trooper Kevin P. Dobson Memorial Leg

  • Date: Thursday, May 27th, 2021
  • Start Time: 4:00 PM
  • Start Point: Clarence State Police Barracks (5 Town Place Clarence, NY 14031
  • End Point: Tully’s (8070 Main Street, Williamsville, NY 14221)

Corrections Officer Scott Kowalski Memorial Torch Run Leg

  • Date: Tuesday, June 1st
  • Start Time: 10:15 AM
  • Start Point: Fredonia Boces-9520 Fredonia Stockton Road
  • End Point: Russel Joy Park

Officer Joshua Davidson and Captain Thomas Deihl Memorial Leg

  • Date: Thursday, June 3rd, 2021
  • Start Time: 9:00 AM
  • Start Point: Niagara Falls Blvd. and Sheridan
  • End Point: Delaware and Kenmore Ave.

Special Agent William M. Fallon Memorial Leg

  • Date: Thursday, June 3rd, 2021
  • Start Time: 10:00 AM
  • Start Point: Delaware and Kenmore Ave.
  • End Point: FBI Headquarters (Niagara Street and South Elmwood)

Honorary Joe Dubreville and Trooper David C. Brinkerhoff Memorial Leg

  • Date: Wednesday, June 9th, 2021
  • Start Time: 12:00 PM
  • Start Point: Hamburg Town Hall (6100 South Park Ave Hamburg, NY 14075)
  • End Point: Hamburg Town Hall (6100 South Park Ave Hamburg, NY 14075)

How can I get involved?

Now that you’ve seen a Torch Run and learned all about it, how can you get involved?

Start by supporting one of the fundraisers listed above. You can also help LETR raise funds by purchasing a shirt. Check our Facebook page for updates about when they go on sale!

Thank you, LETR! Our organization wouldn’t be the same without you.