Calgary Hosts NH Law Enforcement and Special Olympics Organizers
For the first time in it’s thirty-year history, the Law Enforcement Torch Run Conference for Special Olympics International Conference was held outside the United States. Calgary, Canada played host to over one thousand law enforcement officers and Special Olympics coordinators from almost every state in the US, the territories and Canada on November 3-5.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) began in 1981 when Wichita, Kansas Police Chief Richard LaMunyon saw an urgent need to increase awareness of Special Olympics. He also saw it as an ideal way to involve local law enforcement personnel with the Special Olympics community.
At its most basic level, the Torch Run is a running event in which officers and athletes carry the Flame of Hope to the Opening Ceremony 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.
At its most fully developed, the Torch Run initiative encompasses a variety of fundraising vehicles in addition to the Torch Run itself. Torch Run fundraising includes t-shirt and merchandise sales, donations or pledges for runners in the Torch Run, corporate donations, special events such as Penguin Plunges, golf tournaments or other events that have local appeal.
Every year, the conference is held to exchange ideas with other states and countries on how to expand the LETR, recruit more law enforcement, and raise money in the midst of an economic downturn.
The opening ceremonies for the conference began with the announcement that the LETR raised a combined $42 million in the United States in 2010, a new record. After the announcement, attendees witnessed the thrilling and inspiring performance by Emily Boycott, Team Canada’s Gold Medal winner in the Gymnastics competition at the 2011 World Summer Games in Athens, Greece.
Attending this year’s conference from New Hampshire was Carol Cray, Director of Development for Special Olympics New Hampshire (SONH), Michael Dennehy, member of the Board of Directors for SONH, Gary Hubbard, Sergeant in the Laconia Police Department, Matt Duval, Sergeant in the Somersworth Police Department, and Leon Jesseman, Market Manager for Circle K in New Hampshire.
While many non-profit organizations are struggling to raise money, SONH has maintained it’s strong bottom line, but recruiting new law enforcement personnel to participate in the LETR is the most challenging obstacle to overcome.
Michael Dennehy said that the conference was a huge success and gave the New Hampshire attendees the ideas they needed to reinvigorate their program.
“The law enforcement currently involved are passionate and devoted to Special Olympics. Now we need to take their passion and spread it to law enforcement just getting out of the academy and others in agencies who haven’t been involved before. You will never see a Special Olympics athlete happier than the day they are paired up with someone from the law enforcement community. It’s a joy that is contagious, and we need it to spread like wildfire.”
Expect some announcements early next year that includes new branding around the LETR, new LETR leaders for New Hampshire, and some exciting new events like “Free the Fuzz”, a fundraiser where a police officer is stuck on top of a building until the targeted amount of money is raised to release him.
Next year’s LETR conference will be held in Indianapolis.