The annual Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections fundraiser for Special Olympics Maryland features a tug of war bracket.
SYKESVILLE — The grounds of the Maryland Safety Education and Training Center were witness to victory, defeat and likely a few cases of rope burn Friday.
After Cpl. Dennis Dorsey yelled “Ready? Pull!” two teams would face off for tug-of-war glory during the annual tug-of-war fundraiser held by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to benefit Special Olympics Maryland.
The morning began with a 1K run and walk. Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford stopped by to see them off and held the ceremonial torch. Then members of the K-9 unit gave a demonstration.
After a lunch, things got competitive when teams squared up for the tournament. Two teams in the heavyweight category had a combined team weight over 2,000 pounds.
North Branch Correctional Institution, the team weighing in at the heaviest with 2,239 pounds, took home the heavyweight title in their final face-off against Eastern Correctional Institute, whose teams traveled all the way from Somerset County on the Eastern Shore. North Branch, in Cumberland, has defended its title for the past six years of the competition.
Team leader Capt. Kimberly Bey said the team stays motivated by “remembering what we’re here for.”
Special Olympics athlete Taniya Lecker was there with her mother, Natasha, who works in Central Booking in Baltimore. Though her division didn’t have a tug-of-war team this year, they come out to support the event every year.
Taniya Lecker has been cheerleading for almost three years, and was all smiles when she talked about the sport.
Three guests stretching their four legs were young pooches from the America's VetDogs. They were at the event for training to get used to crowds, children, traffic and other things that aren’t usually seen in prison. That’s where the dogs live and are trained by inmates at Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown.
They stay there for approximately 12 to 15 months before they go on for further training and are eventually placed with disabled veterans. They can be trained for household tasks, from opening drawers and cabinets, to picking up delicate items like credit cards and eyeglasses to operating light switches. Recently, an American VetDog went to former president George H.W. Bush.
“Inmates take a lot of pride in the job that they’re doing,” said Sgt. D. Middlekauff with the Maryland Correctional Institution, and added that the atmosphere of the prison has seemed calmer since the program began in 2012.