Law Enforcement Torch Run raises funds for Special Olympics Maryland

Cold weather and a light rain couldn't diminish the light of the Special Olympics' Flame of Hope as police officers, Special Olympics athletes and community members ran it through Carroll County as part of the annual Torch Run.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Maryland is a fundraising program held each year to raise money for the Special Olympics mission to provide training and competition to children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Each law enforcement agency was represented at the run Wednesday, with more than 200 officers participating in the event.


The torch was taken around the county, with the run starting at the Maryland Police Training Commissions Center gym in Sykesville, before making its way through Hampstead, Taneytown, Mount Airy and Union Bridge with the entire trek ending at City Hall in Westminster.

According to Westminster Police Chief Jeff Spaulding, police first adopted the Special Olympics as their international charity of choice in 1986, and have made it their mission to raise awareness and funds for the organization. Spaulding said he's been involved in the Torch Run association since 1986, working to raise money throughout the state of Maryland.

This is the 32nd Maryland Torch Run. Spaulding said the first year, they only raised a few thousand dollars, while last year, they brought in more than $7.3 million for the Maryland offices.

"We want to make the community more aware of the Special Olympics and the life changing benefits it provides," Spaulding said. "It gives law enforcement an opportunity to outreach in a very positive way to the people in our community who could use our assistance."

Law enforcement officers weren't the only participants in the run. Students from four Carroll middle schools spent the last month raising money for the run, with the top-funding class receiving a trophy that passes from school to school. West Middle students won the competition this year, bringing in more than $3,000 total.

A group of 19 Special Olympics athletes also participated in the run, preparing for their upcoming appearances at the Summer Games Opening Ceremony, to be held Friday, June 9, at Towson University.

Joshua Smith said he likes competing in the Special Olympics each year, but also loves participating in the Torch Run as well.

"I've been here for a couple of years," Smith said. "I do it because I want to support other athletes around the world."

Fellow athlete Ralph Gemmell said it was a great day even though it got a little cold and rainy at the end.

Donna McGuire participated in the run with her son, Special Olympian Woody Higgs. She said this is a great way to show the police their appreciation for all of the fundraising they do for the organization throughout the year.

"They are so great with us, so we come out to show them our support," McGuire said. "Let's face it, they come out from all corners of the county, and they're wonderful with our athletes. We want to be there for them as well."