The Flame of Hope is a little closer to making its way to Towson for Friday’s Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics Maryland Summer Games thanks to members of the Annapolis Police Department.
Members of the APD, Special Olympics athletes and local volunteers carried the flame Tuesday afternoon during part of the Maryland Law Enforcement Torch Run.
The torch run in Maryland involves four relays or “legs” with four torches being carried around the state, said Betsy Jiron, senior director of special events for Special Olympics Maryland.
On Tuesday APD officers participated in the Eastern leg of the run, which started in Ocean City, continued through Salisbury, Cambridge and Easton and then made its way to Annapolis.
The group started at Susan B. Campbell Park at City Dock and continued with the flame along a three-and-a-half-mile course that ended at the World War II Memorial on Maryand Route 450.
Among those running was Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop. He said the Annapolis Police Department has been participating in the torch run for about 25 years.
“Every person here, every officer that ran today did it on their own, they wanted to be a part of it...they participated freely and they wanted to be a part of this,” he said. “For me, it’s fun to be a part of it, too.”
Jiron said Special Olympics Maryland has the largest law enforcement torch run program and is the largest fundraising program in the world, raising more than $3.6 million for Special Olympics each year. The torch run is part of a year-round partnership with Special Olympics and law enforcement.
Jiron said she’s seen the officers and athletes develop special relationship, keeping in contact throughout the year, with officers often coming to root them on during the summer games.
“It’s a really unique experience," she said. "And it’s all about [the athlete’s] abilities and not their disabilities and everything they can do, not what they cannot do.”
Martha Collinson of Edgewater was there Tuesday to watch her son Eric, a Special Olympics Maryland athlete, participate in the run.
“I’m so proud of him...” she said of Eric, who has been participating with Special Olympics since he was 7 years old. He is now 23.
The next leg of the relay is scheduled for Thursday, when the Anne Arundel County Police Department runs the torch from Glen Burnie to Annapolis. Then the flame will be brought to the opening ceremonies in Towson on Friday.