Maryland Law Enforcement torch relay returns to Carroll

In four days, Special Olympics athlete Andrew Nies will join softball teammate Mary Linthicum for a run through Westminster.

They will be joined by fellow Special Olympic athletes, police officers, government employees and other supporters during the Maryland Law Enforcement Torch Run Wednesday.

The annual torch run, now in its 27th year, supports Special Olympics Maryland, which is holding its summer games at Towson University Friday through June 10.

Nies, who almost always smiles, is a soft-spoken Special Olympics athlete. He's taken part in the torch run before, he said, and will be surrounded by those throughout the community who have been touched by his fellow athletes.

The Maryland Torch Run raised $3.3 million last year. The Carroll County portion of the torch run will have legs in Sykesville, Manchester, Taneytown, Mount Airy, Union Bridge and Westminster.

The final leg, which Nies and Linthicum are taking part in, will be from McDaniel College to the Westminster Family Fitness Center with members of all the other legs taking part.

"There's a real sense of what we are doing matters," said Det. Stacey Gaegler of the Hampstead Police Department, who organized the Hampstead-Manchester leg. "The Special Olympians' eyes light up when people cheer."

Once again, Westminster Police Chief Jeff Spaulding is leading the Carroll County torch run. He's participated in more than 50 torch runs for Special Olympics, including at the World Games level.

He carried the torch through Nagano, Japan, at a previous World Games site, and also helped organize a torch relay at the World Games in Southern Greece last year.

Finding police staff to support the torch relay is not difficult.

"The best recruiting tool is to just have them meet a Special Olympics athlete," he said.

This year's torch relay will feature walking, jogging and cycling, depending on the leg.

During the Hampstead-

Manchester leg, cyclists will head down Md. 27 through town until they reach the final leg for what should be a fun day, Gaegler said.

"The athletes are just so full of energy," she said. "They are just wonderful to be around."