Local law officers see the Law Enforcement Torch Run as a good way to help others in the community.
Come rain or shine, local law officers will hit the road Wednesday on a 65-mile run to benefit people most of them will never meet.
"It's kind of a special project for us. It's a labor of love," said J.R. Miller, a Lawrence police officer who is area coordinator for the 15th annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Kansas Special Olympics. As coordinator, Miller oversees Torch Run activities in Douglas, Atchison, Jefferson and Leavenworth counties.
About 45 officers from the Lawrence Police Department, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and Haskell Indian Nations University Security will participate in this year's run. Miller estimated that this was the eighth year local law officers have participated in the Torch Run.
The run is a fund-raising event for the Kansas Special Olympics Program, a sports training and competition program for children and adults with mental disabilities. All money raised through the run goes directly to Special Olympics to help finance training, insurance, support services and competitions for Special Olympians.
Miller said the local officers will begin their leg of the Torch Run about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday when they pick up the torch from a group of Leavenworth County runners at the intersection of Kansas Highway 7 and U.S. Highway 24 in Leavenworth County.
From there they will follow U.S. 24 through Tonganoxie and into Lawrence. Miller said he expected the runners to arrive between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. at Lawrence city hall, and they will run as a group through downtown.
The group will also run through the Haskell campus and follow county roads that will take them south of Eudora, back west to Vinland, south through Baldwin and south across the Franklin County line. They expect to pass the torch to Franklin County law officers about 4:30 p.m. in the town of LeLoup.
A group of 10 Lawrence police officers also will travel June 2 to Wichita to join officers from throughout the state for the final 5-mile leg of the run. That leg will begin at Wichita city hall and end at Henry Levitt Arena at Wichita State University. Once the torch arrives at the arena, it will be passed from the law officers to the Special Olympians during an opening ceremony that's slated to begin at 6:30 p.m.
The Torch Run got its start in Wichita in 1980 from an idea generated by former Wichita Police Chief Richard LaMunyon. The Torch Run is now held in all 50 states and 20 foreign countries.
Last year, Law Enforcement Torch Runs raised more than $5 million worldwide, Miller said. Kansas law officers raised $140,000 last year.
Miller said local law officers raised about $3,000 for Special Olympics so far this year. He said he expected that total to climb after Sunday's Special Olympics Fund Run.
The 5K Fund Run starts at 8 a.m. at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center and is open to all runners. Runners can enter the event Sunday morning. All money raised through the fund run will go to Special Olympics.