Officers hit the road for Special Olympics

Torch Run culminates in start of Summer Games

May 30, 2002|By Christy Koontz | Christy Koontz,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Westminster troopers and county officials will be among 20 Carroll runners and bicyclists in today's Maryland Law Enforcement Torch Run, an annual fund-raiser for the state Special Olympics.

The western leg of the run began Monday in Garrett County and ends tomorrow in Prince George's County at the opening of the Maryland Special Olympics 2002 Summer Games. Similar teams are running three other legs covering the rest of the state and will converge at the University of Maryland, College Park tomorrow.

"In my line of work, usually you're known for something negative, and this is something we can do to be seen in a positive light," said Tfc. Rob Lance, noting Carroll has been part of the run for at least 10 years.

Carroll County's team, which includes Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning, will accept the torch from Frederick County officials about 9 a.m. on Route 26 at the Carroll-Frederick line. They will carry the torch east to Route 27 in Taylorsville. Then they will head south to pass the torch to Howard County officers outside the Mount Airy fire station on Main Street.

This is "to show our support for the Special Olympics, to bring awareness about the Special Olympics, because it's an amazing event," said Trooper Laura Beck. "It's the true spirit of athleticism."

Maryland Special Olympics is a statewide, year-round sports program for children and adults with mental retardation and developmental disabilities. More than 9,000 athletes, ages 8 and older, participate in Special Olympics local programs throughout the year.

Carroll County held its competition late last month, and about 20 county athletes are expected to compete in the Summer Games. The competition includes aquatics, duckpin bowling, volleyball, softball and track and field events. About 1,175 Maryland athletes are expected to compete.

The Torch Run is one of the many charities the Maryland State Police are involved in, Beck said. Law enforcement officers raised about $750,000 last year for Special Olympics through the Torch Run and other events. This year's goal is to raise $1 million, officials said.

Today marks the fifth time Trooper Wendy Bernhardt has participated in the Torch Run.

"The athletes put so much of their own time and effort into training and preparing themselves for the event that anything I can do to help is the least I can do," she said. "It's a positive experience for the troopers because we can give something back to the community. It's just really rewarding."

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