Kansas Police Chief Richard LaMunyon created the first Torch Run in 1981 and founded Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) for Special Olympics. In 1983, he presented the program to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). With the IACP’s support, LETR became the largest grassroots public awareness and fundraising group for Special Olympics. Since its inception, LETR has raised U.S. $733,234,931.
Known as Guardians of the Flame, law enforcement members and Special Olympics athletes carry the Flame of Hope into Opening Ceremonies for local, state, provincial, national, regional, and global competitions. There are over 110,000 law enforcement officers who carry the Flame of Hope annually. The flame symbolizes courage and celebration of diversity uniting communities around the globe.
Over 100 law enforcement officers will carry the Flame of Hope to all seven of the United Arab Emirates in the Final Leg before the 2019 World Games. They will safely deliver the Flame of Hope to Abu Dhabi on 14 March to light the cauldron that starts the Games.
Here are some members of this year’s Final Leg teams:
TINA DAVIES - New South Wales Police Force, New South Wales, Australia
Tina Davies has over 22 years of service with the New South Wales Police Force. She has been involved with Special Olympics since 2013, serving as Torch Run Coordinator for the last 4 years.
Tina is a proud mother of two teenagers, Mitch (16) and Emily (14), and a four legged furry daughter named Hachi (5). All of them work together to keep her active and on her toes!
The enormous sense of courage and pride displayed by the athletes has inspired Tina to dedicate her time and energy to Special Olympics. Her active involvement with Law Enforcement Torch Run continues to provide opportunities for lifelong memories, such as getting to run on a team for the 2019 Final Leg in Abu Dhabi.
JOYCE YU - Hong Kong Police Force, Hong Kong
Yu Sze Wai Joyce has been involved with Law Enforcement Torch Run for the past six years since she joined the Hong Kong Police Force.
Joyce joined the Police Force as an Inspector after graduating from university. She was posted to Patrol Sub Unit, Task Force Sub Unit, and District Investigation Unit, and now she is currently working in the Headquarters.
Joyce is a member of the Police Swimming Team; she took part in the World Police and Fire Games in Fairfax 2015 and Los Angeles 2017.
This is the first time for Joyce to participate in a Final Leg, and she is so honored to have the opportunity to represent her law enforcement as a torch runner in 2019 Abu Dhabi Final Leg.
CHARLEY JAQUES - HM Customs, Gibraltar, Gibraltar
Charley is a Senior Customs Officer in HM Customs Gibraltar with 33 years of experience in law enforcement. He currently manages the Training Unit and is responsible for all areas of officer training and development. Charley has a Masters in Executive Management from Durham University in the United Kingdom and is a qualified instructor in “Officer Personal Safety,” “Response Patrol Car Driving,” and “Fast Boat Handling.”
Charley is married and has three daughters. One of his daughters is 20, and the other two are twins who are 17. He has always been a keen sports person having actively been involved playing football, rugby, and volleyball. He has participated in numerous charity races, namely the Newcastle Great North Run half marathon and the Dublin 10k. Charley's two other hobbies include scuba diving and motorbike riding.
Charley's involvement with the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Gibraltar started back in 1988 when he participated in his first run. He has participated every year since joining as a Liaison Officer for HM Customs Gibraltar in 2005.
MĀRTIŅŠ ĶIPURS - Riga Municipal Police, Latvia
Mārtiņš has been working in the Riga Municipal Police for seven years and has been involved in the Torch Run only recently when he was invited to participate in the organization of the first Law Enforcement Torch Run in Latvia.
For his first three years in the Riga Municipal Police, Mārtiņš was a patrol policeman and then was promoted to chief inspector. He is currently studying and in 2018, plans to complete his bachelor's degree in Legal Science. Mārtiņš’ hobbies are traveling, surfing, hiking, and backcountry skiing.
He was responsible for logistics and arranging the exchange of experiences with his colleagues from Estonia, Lithuania, and Ireland while organizing the first Latvia Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Mārtiņš appreciates the goals set by LETR and sees that Latvia has a potential for growth with this movement, but there is a long way to go to reach the level of the other participating countries. He is ready to help Latvia’s LETR get there.
MAJA KRAJCAR - Ministry of the Interior, Croatia
Maja is a Chief Police Inspector and shift leader at the Police School of the Ministry of the Interior of Croatia. She has been a police officer for 26 years. She is a mother of two adult children: Marko who is a young policeman and Lana who is a student of Humanities and Social Sciences.
She started a cooperation between the Police School, the Center for Education and Training, and the Center for Autism. She is also an initiator of many humanitarian activities at the Police Academy. She joined in the activities based on a cooperation agreement between the Ministry of the Interior and Special Olympics Croatia.
In her free time, she likes to read, hike, and take walks in nature. She is full of energy and enthusiasm and wants to spread the LETR movement to all of Croatia.
IAN PARKINSON - San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office, Southern California, USA
Ian Parkinson has been involved with the Law Enforcement Torch Run for over twenty years. He first learned of LETR through his then Chief. His Chief was the parent of a Special Olympics athlete and taught Ian the value of volunteering for Special Olympics.
Sheriff Parkinson has participated in Tip a Cop locally since it began in his area. He has encouraged every member of his agency to participate. He has seen how law enforcement's involvement not only affects athletes’ lives but also enriches the lives of his employees.
Ian is often recognized by athletes in the area and is met with a long hug. These moments remind him of the importance of his participation and the amazing hearts of Special Olympics athletes.
DIANE VANDER-KOOY - Illinois State Police (Retired), Illinois, USA
Diane Vander-Kooy has been involved with the Law Enforcement Torch Run for the past 20 years and became involved not long after joining the Illinois State Police.
Diane started on patrol of the Illinois Highway Tollway System, then moved to Springfield to work at the State Police Academy, and was promoted to Sergeant. She was later promoted again to the rank of Master Sergeant in the Executive Protective Unit.
Diane is married to her partner who is also a retired employee of the Illinois State Police. They have three adult children and cherish their three grandchildren with another on the way. They are very involved with their activities as retired grandparents.
Diane took over the Illinois State Police Torch Run efforts as its Statewide Coordinator and has overseen the Illinois State Police Torch Run Program, which has raised over $756,000 so far.
The pivotal moment when Diane became completely embedded in the LETR program was during a Special Olympics weightlifting competition. An athlete was so caught up in the emotions of his success and picked her up in full uniform as they celebrated his epic moment together! There was no looking back.
OLIVIA CONTRERAS - Avondale Police Department, Arizona, USA
Olivia Contreras is originally from Wheeling, West Virginia. She moved to Arizona in 2000 to pursue her Masters in Psychology. Olivia is a thirteen-year veteran of the Avondale Police Department.
In 2015, she was promoted to Sergeant and currently works in the Criminal Investigations Bureau overseeing the Special Victims Unit. Olivia was recently married in September 2017, and her husband is an active member of the United States Air Force.
She also has an 8-year-old daughter named Alissa and two dogs. She has been actively involved in Special Olympics since 2011 and currently sits on the Arizona State Council.
Olivia oversees the LETR program for her department, which has consistently been one of the Top 10 Fundraising Departments in Arizona.
Her hobbies include exercising, watching movies, traveling, and spending time with her family.
ANGIE FRAIZE - Anchorage Police Department, Alaska, USA
Officer Angie Fraize currently works at the Anchorage Police Department Training Center in Anchorage, Alaska.
Angie has been in law enforcement for 17 years and was born and raised in Alaska. She is now raising two daughters, Italia and Gianna, alongside her husband who is also a police officer.
Gianna is 9 and has Down syndrome. She is a participant in Special Olympics Young Athletes, and her sister, Italia, is an avid volunteer. Angie currently chairs two nonprofits, Anchorage Cops for Community and FOCUS, Family Outreach Center for Understanding Special Needs.
Angie has been involved in Anchorage’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics for 13 years and is a passionate advocate for people with all abilities to be included in the community.
PAUL SALVATORE ASARO - Special Olympics Athlete, Eastchester, New York (USA)
Paul was first introduced to Special Olympics in 1994 by a friend from school. He started with the swimming program doing very well and developing many new friendships. Swimming was something really fun to do on weekends. After swimming, he joined track, basketball, and cycling. Paul excelled at cycling and even cycled with Special Olympics in the 2003 World Games in Dublin. It was so exciting to march into the stadium with all the athletes from different countries!
He not only did well in the sports he participated in, but he began to volunteer as a coach and became a certified coach in track and cycling. He felt needed. Special Olympics provided new goals that he could reach. He had confidence in himself. One day, he would like to become a Special Olympics New York staff member. He currently serves on Special Olympics New York’s Board of Directors.
His favorite LETR event was running with the local Final Leg team through Westchester County in New York, USA.
It is very humbling to run with the Flame of Hope in the UAE. He wants to thank the UAE for hosting the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.
STEPHEN GRAHAM - Special Olympics Athlete, Orillia, Ontario (Canada)
Stephen is a 22-year veteran of Special Olympics. He has competed in 3 World Winter Games in the sport of speed skating, most recently at the Austria 2017 World Games. Altogether, he has won a total of five gold medals, one silver, and one bronze at the world level. He has been honoured over the years by being named Athlete of the Year for Special Olympics Canada, Ontario, and the city of Orillia.
Stephen loves sports and has participated in speed skating, athletics, baseball, basketball, floor hockey, swimming, curling, hockey, and biking. Sports have always been an important part of his life.
He is no stranger to Torch Runs and carried the torch for the 2010 Olympics and the 2015 Pan American Games. He is very excited to run in the Final Leg in Abu Dhabi!
Stephen has worked full time over the last 15 years at a car dealership as the lot manager. He continues to train at an elite level, where he hopes to claim a spot on Team Canada’s speed skating team for the 2021 Special Olympics World Winter Games.
BRENDAN BURKE - Special Olympics Athlete, Jackson, Wyoming (USA)
Brendan started participating in Special Olympics Wyoming at the age of 8 with equestrian and skiing. This involvement increased each year, and now he competes in the Fall, Winter, and Summer Games in soccer, alpine skiing, basketball, and athletics. Brendan competed in the 2018 USA Games on a Unified basketball team and won fifth place.
Beyond sports, Brendan is a Global Messenger for Special Olympics Wyoming and serves on the Wyoming Athlete Input Council. He is excited to be the first athlete from Wyoming to run in an international Torch Run.
For the last two years in a row, he has run in the State Winter Games Law Enforcement Torch Run in his hometown of Jackson, Wyoming, and in November 2018, he attended the LETR International Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is extremely hopeful that his abilities and interests will lead to a spring internship with his local police department helping to bridge the gap between school and employment opportunities.
DANIEL FUNDORA - Special Olympics Athlete, Miami, Florida (USA)
Daniel has been competing in Special Olympics since he was 11 years old. His first sport was bowling, but now he competes in flag football, basketball, softball, golf, stand up paddle boarding, and soccer. He won his first gold medal on the state level in softball, and last year, he won gold in stand up paddle board at the USA Games in Seattle.
He is also a Health Messenger for Special Olympics and strongly believes health is important. Daniel works hard to make sure his teammates practice fitness and nutrition and encourages them to attend Healthy Athletes at competitions.
This is the first time he will participate in a Final Leg for the World Games. He is looking forward to attending the Final Leg for the first time. He will run not only for himself but also to make a difference in the community with his leadership, courage, sportsmanship, and heart of a champion.