Oregon officers, athletes carry Special Olympics torch

'It gets bigger every year'

Officers and local athletes carried the Special Olympics torch from Lake Oswego to Tigard, June 29, 2017. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — More than 300 Portland-area law enforcement officers carried the Special Olympics torch from Lake Oswego to Tigard Thursday, running along with the Olympic athletes.

The run is just one segment of one leg in the extensive Law Enforcement Torch Run, in which officers race the “Flame of Hope” around the state of Oregon to its final destination in Corvallis. There it will light the cauldron to begin the Special Olympics Oregon Summer State Games on July 8.

Overall more than 1,000 officers will participate in Oregon’s run – which also serves as one of SOOR’s major fundraisers.

One participating officer, Lt. Chad Gaidos, said athletes and officers alike find the event highly rewarding.

“Often times in our work its repetitive trouble that we’re trying to deal with. And we’re trying to address crisis on a regular basis,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to give back, and our staff jumps right to the opportunity.”

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is a worldwide tradition that began in Kansas in 1981 and has since spread to every state and several countries.

This is the 31st LETR in Oregon, and SOOR said the events have raised more than $6 million over that period. But Janelle Clinton, one of the run’s organizers, said the message is just as important as the money.

“It is a fundraising event, but it’s also an opportunity to share with the community the importance of Special Olympics and the special relationship that they have with law enforcement,” she said. “It’s been a relationship that’s just growing stronger and stronger every year.”

Sam Van Winkle, who competes in the pentathlon, has participated in the LETR for the last 3 years.

“It gets bigger every year,” he said.  “It’s a fun thing to do. It’s kind of community-building.”

“For us it’s kind of a heartwarming experience,” said Lt. Gaidos. “It’s a chance for us to get out and kind of share what we do in a good light with people who are excited to see us and happy to have us here.”

The torch will continue its path to Corvallis next week, when officers and athletes run it from Newberg to McMinnville on July 5.