Law enforcement run torch for Special Olympics

Published 9:33 am Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In the middle of National Police Week local law enforcement spent their morning running with the Mississippi Special Olympics Torch through downtown Vicksburg.

The run started at 7 a.m. Wednesday at the corner of Cherry and Grove streets just in front of the Warren County Courthouse. Representatives from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Vicksburg Police Department ran with four of the 54 local Special Olympic athletes that will compete this weekend.

“The Vicksburg Police Department officers look forward to participating each and every year,” Vicksburg police Chief Walter Armstrong said.

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Three separate torches have made their way through Mississippi with help from law enforcement officers this week starting Monday in the Hernando, Olive Branch and Oxford areas of North Mississippi. All three torches will meet at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi Friday to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the state Special Olympics Summer Games.

“We are excited to once again partner with the Special Olympics in the Special Olympics torch run, and we congratulate all athletes that will be participating in the state games in Biloxi,” Sheriff Martin Pace said.

More than 1,000 athletes from across the state will compete Saturday and Sunday. The summer games have been held at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi for 30 years.

“The air-men and women of Keesler Air Force Base chaperone our athletes around that weekend,” said Jim Beaugez, director of communications for Special Olympics Mississippi. “They become close with them, they get to build friendships.”

Beaugez said law enforcement officers have been participating in the torch run worldwide for about 20 years. He said the officers are called the Guardians of the Flames of Hope because of their support of Special Olympic athletes.

“Whether you’re an athlete or one of the many volunteers that support the athletes, everyone involved in Special Olympics is a winner,” Pace said.

Beaugez said law enforcement officers from around the state have raised $47,000 for Special Olympics athletes and programs this year.

“That money goes to supporting the athletes,” Beaugez said. “It cost about $200 per year for an athlete to participate. They never have to pay.”

The money is used toward uniforms, training, and transportation among other things that allow the athletes to compete.