For Immediate Release
Orlando, Florida – Law enforcement officers around the world go above and beyond the call of duty year-round in support of Special Olympics through the Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR). In the last year alone, the LETR raised more than $46.3 million for Special Olympics.
From 7-9 November in Orlando, Florida, the International Law Enforcement Torch Run Conference brought together nearly 1,000 law enforcement officers, volunteers, and Special Olympics Program leaders, athletes and staff from throughout the world.
Conference participants recognized the work of people who have made significant contributions to its growth and also commemorated milestones in the fundraiser’s 32-year history. The theme of the conference, ”Dream – Making Dreams Come True One Athlete at a Time,” reflected how the LETR is seen as not only a successful fundraising tool for Special Olympics at the grassroots level, but also as an important partnership with Special Olympics for the continued growth of opportunities for athletes with intellectual disabilities around the world.
Several awards were given at the LETR Conference. The Richard LaMunyon Law Enforcement Hall of Fame Award recognizes outstanding Russ Laine from Illinois, Don Stuart from New South Wales, Australia, and Roberta Abner from Southern California. All demonstrated a sustained and significant contribution to Special Olympics and the LETR at the local, national and international levels.
The John Carion Award, recognizing an “Unsung Hero” who has contributed to the success of the Law Enforcement Torch Run on a local, state or community level was awarded to Brian Bray (posthumously) from Kentucky, Mike Beck from Indiana, and Adam Christin from Southern California. The Unsung Hero award is a tribute to Sergeant John Carion, Sterling Heights Police Department (MI), who epitomized the term “Unsung Hero” during his lifetime; he died in a plane crash in January 1994. Josh Frost from New South Wales, Australia, Elena Weaver from Georgia, and Max Everton from Virginia all received the Executive Council Athlete Award, which recognizes outstanding Special Olympics athletes who have contributed to the success of the LETR on a local, state or national level.
The second annual Guardian Award was given to Ontario, Canada LETR recognizing that they exemplify the true meaning of the LETR mission.
Special Olympics Florida athletes emceed and hosted the entire conference and the attendees enjoyed inspirational messages delivered by motivational past Olympic and Paralympic Champions. Speakers included Olympic Gymnastics Gold Medalist Bart Conner, Paralympic Track & Field Gold Medalist April Holmes, Olympic Track and Field Gold Medalist Dennis Mitchell and Olympic Softball Gold Medalist Dot Richardson.
The LETR began 32 years ago with founder Wichita Police Chief Richard LaMunyon, and five law enforcement officers carrying the torch for the Special Olympics Kansas Summer Games in Wichita. The LETR has since evolved to a volunteer partnership with Special Olympics to champion acceptance and inclusion. It has become a worldwide community of law enforcement officers rallying to support Special Olympics, the impetus for millions of new friendships around the world, and a series of events including Torch Runs, Polar Plunge fundraisers, and Tip-A-Cop® events.
The LETR is the largest grassroots fundraiser for Special Olympics with more than 97,000 law enforcement participants around the world. It was announced at the conference last week that the LETR raised more than $46.3 million in 2012 for Special Olympics athletes and a cumulative sum of more than $461 million since its inception in 1981. As Chief LaMunyon stated in his opening remarks at the conference, law enforcement and Special Olympics are “a perfect match” as both law enforcement officers and Special Olympics athletes exemplify bravery within their communities.
Chief LaMunyon, in his address at the Hall of Fame Banquet, said of the torch and the Law Enforcement Torch Run that, “In every corner of the world, the light cast by this flame represents hope, justice, freedom; it represents life. Its intensity is fueled by you, the men and women of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, and with the passing of the Torch we proclaim that we shall continue to be the Guardians of the Flame®, reaffirming our commitment to Special Olympics athletes worldwide to change lives by creating a world of empowerment, dignity, understanding and acceptance.”
Mike Peretti, Chairman of the LETR Executive Council, challenged Special Olympics programs to increase the annual revenues to $50 million by 2015. Special Olympics and the LETR are looking forward to celebrating another set of milestones next year at the LETR conference in New Orleans, La. in September 2014.