They were the fittest of the fit. Fifteen runners from the Santa Clara Police Department donned maroon t-shirts, running shoes, sunglasses and caps June 16 to raise awareness and money for a cause the department holds dear to its collective heart.
The runners carried the Special Olympics Flame of Hope through Santa Clara as part of the 2016 Law Enforcement Torch Run, raising more than $3,000 in pledges for Special Olympics with their 5.2-mile run along El Camino Real.
Escorted by SCPD motor unit officers, they carried the torch from the border of San Jose to Halford Ave. (near Lawrence Expressway) in Sunnyvale, where Special Olympics athlete Lindsay Mibach passed the torch to fellow athlete Stacey Stevenson. Both are Special Olympics medalists and veterans of many Law Enforcement Torch Runs.
“It’s fun. I met a lot of new people, good people, through Special Olympics,” said Mibach, who works part-time in the Santa Clara City Clerk’s office. “I treat Santa Clara police as my family.”
“Special Olympics is an absolutely wonderful organization. It gives Stacey fitness and self-esteem. It allows her to be part of a community. It’s wonderful for socialization,” said Stevenson’s mom, Deana Stevenson. Stevenson works as a courtesy clerk at Lucky Supermarket in Santa Clara.
“I cannot tell you how much we appreciate all the fire departments and police departments that support Special Olympics. I can’t thank them enough,” said Deana Stevenson.
“It’s inspiring to us because the athletes are a vulnerable population, and we want to make sure they have the opportunities other people have. In Special Olympics, they get medals and thrive. It’s a social community for them,” said Santa Clara Assistant Chief of Police Dan Winter, State Director of the Northern California Law Enforcement Torch Run.
The Northern California Law Enforcement Torch Run raises about $1 million annually for Special Olympics, which began in Chicago in 1968 and has served northern California children and adults with intellectual disabilities since 1995. SCPD is its number two fundraising agency in northern California and raised $75,000 in 2015.
“The Santa Clara Police Department is one of our dedicated supporters. They go above and beyond. They’re fully involved and very dedicated,” says Special Olympics Torch Run Director Katie Ostrom.
Law enforcement runners throughout northern California relay the Flame of Hope from city to city to the opening ceremonies of the summer Special Olympics Games at the University of California, Davis, this year on June 24 – 26. More than 1,000 athletes, competing in aquatics, bocce, tennis or track and field, and their volunteer coaches will participate.
On a somber note, motor units from Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and Mountain View Police Departments escorted the San Jose Police Department runners this year as the San Jose Motor Unit mourned the death of Officer Michael Katherman in a motorcycle accident while on duty June 14.
“The Santa Clara Police Department is proud to continue its special partnership and support of Special Olympics Northern California,” stated SCPD Chief Michael Sellers, confiding that he ran just once in the Torch Run. The runners were challenged to keep up with the 7- to 8-minute mile pace set by that year’s lead Special Olympics athlete.
Chief Sellers was later overheard to say that he would consider running again–if the pace was kept to this year’s 15-minute mile.