UPDATED: 9:50am, Tuesday, June 12: Due to storms in the area, please disregard the 2:00-3:00 p.m. torch arrival today. Weather looks great for 8:00 a.m. start in Effingham tomorrow (Wednesday, June 13)!
The Annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Illinois will be starting this week as Law Enforcement Officers, Troopers, and personnel from around the State run the Flame of Hope to Bloomington/Normal culminating at the Opening Ceremony of State Summer Games next Friday, June 15th, at Illinois State University. Our local Law Enforcement Communities carry the Flame of Hope in support of the Special Olympics athletes and the mission to bring them to inclusion, acceptance, and equality. This amazing event helps to raise awareness of the #SOlimitless abilities of Special Olympics athletes.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run Leg 16 will begin on Monday, June 11th in Olney, IL, and with the support of the Olney Police Department Officers, the Flame of Hope will be run to the Town Square in Newton, IL. Although he is not able to participate this year, Sergeant Brian Nutall has coordinated the Officers of Olney who run the Torch and the logistics of the run. The torch will then be passed on to Trooper Tammy Welborn, Safety Education Officer and Media Liaison of the Illinois State Police District 12, based out of Effingham.
The morning of Wednesday, June 13th, Illinois State Police Department District 12 and Law Enforcement of Effingham County, including Trooper Welborn, meet with the Effingham County Lightning Special Olympics team and other local Special Olympics athletes, to ignite the Flame of Hope once again and begin one of the longest running Torch Run legs, the 25 miles along IL Route 45 to the Mattoon McDonald’s on Lake Land Boulevard. Trooper Welborn wanted to really kick-off the start Wednesday morning and recruited the help of the Marshall High School Band Drum Line to keep the beat. The Special Olympics athletes that are present at the start of the run at 8:00am, each have the opportunity to carry the Flame of Hope and be an inspiration to the Law Enforcement team that will carry the Flame on-ward to Neoga, IL.
Once the Law Enforcement Torch Run team arrives in Neoga, the Neoga/Sigel Indians Special Olympics team will join in the Torch Run starting at Casey’s General Store. In the past 3 years that the Neoga/Sigel Indians have participated in the run, the Athletes and their coaches take turns carrying the Flame of Hope for the blocks between Casey’s General Store and the Dollar General in Neoga. Casey’s General Store is promoting our Change for Champions Donations, in which a patron of Casey’s can purchase a support Flame, and all funds from these purchases are donated to Special Olympics Illinois.
Finally, the Torch will arrive at the Mattoon City Hall at approximately 3:00pm, where the Coles County Sheriff’s Department, led by Sheriff Jim Rankin, will take over to run the Flame of Home through the 13.3 mile duration of Coles County, north on Rt. 45 to the 1900 N. CR. Line. The Coles County Sheriff’s Department has also participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run during the past 3 years, in order to show their support for our Special Olympics athletes, but it is a little more personal than that for Sheriff Jim Rankin. According to Lewis Clark, a Special Olympics athlete of CCAR Industries, “Sheriff Rankin is my friend and takes me to the baseball game and to dinner. He takes pictures with me. We’re friends”.
For most all the Law Enforcement Officers in Illinois running the Flame of Hope, they have a personal story and a real connection to a Special Olympics Illinois athlete. The LETR goal is to bring others to the awareness of how wonderful it is to know and befriend a Special Olympics athlete. Come out along the Law Enforcement Torch Run Leg 16 route this next Monday and Wednesday to show your support as well!