Law Enforcement Torch Run For Special Olympics

The Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics is the movement’s largest grass-roots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle, raising US$34 million for Special Olympics Programs around the world in 2008.

More than 85,000 law enforcement officers carried the Flame of Hope across 35 nations, raising awareness and funds for Special Olympics. Thousands more supported the runners’ efforts through “Adopt-A-Cop” runner sponsorships, local fundraising events, corporate sponsorships and Torch Run T-shirts (more than 400,000 sold) and other merchandise sales to fellow law enforcement officers, families, friends and the public.

At its most basic level, the Torch Run is an actual running event in which officers and athletes run the “Flame of Hope” to the Opening Ceremonies of local Special Olympics competitions, state/provincial Games, and National Summer or Winter Games. Every two years, law enforcement officers from around the world gather to carry the “Flame of Hope” in a Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg in honor of the Special Olympics World Summer or World Winter Games.

Special Olympics Colorado athlete David Henderson and Law enforcement officer Bill Buford pose with the “Flame of Hope” at Cork City Hall, Cork, Ireland during the 2003 Final Leg. On the way into Cork, not a single portion of the 2.2 mile run was without streams of onlookers – crowds were estimated at 10,000. [Photo by Richard Mills, IRELAND OUT]

At its most fully developed, the Torch Run initiative encompasses a variety of fundraising vehicles in addition to the Torch Run itself. All Torch Run activities around the world are governed by the Torch Run Executive Council. Examples of Torch Run fundraising includes T-shirt and merchandise sales, donations or pledges for runners in the Torch Run, corporate donations, special events such as Polar Plunges, golf tournaments or other events that have local appeal (visit the Resources and How To’s section of this site for helpful materials that have been compiled based on best practices received from the field and observations and suggestions made over the years).

More than 1,000 South African law enforcement officers and Special Olympics athletes act as Guardians of the Special Olympics “Flame of Hope” as they run through the streets of Cape Town to Parliament in a Law Enforcement Torch Run held in conjunction with Special Olympics African Hope 2001 growth initiative. [Photo by Siphiwe Mhlambi]

The Law Enforcement Torch Run® began in 1981 when Wichita, Kansas (USA), Police Chief Richard LaMunyon saw an urgent need to raise funds for and increase awareness of Special Olympics. The Torch Run was quickly adopted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), now recognized as the founding law enforcement organization of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics; the IACP hosts an annual Torch Run photography contest (click here to see the most recent winners).

For more information on the Torch Run, contact your local Special Olympics Program. To locate a Program near you, use our Program Locator. For general inquiries, please contact Anna Berke, Law Enforcement Torch Run Specialist, at +1 (202) 824-0268 or aberke@specialolympics.org.