(WSPA) – Law enforcement officers from around the Upstate and Midlands have begun a 140-mile relay of the Special Olympics Flame of Hope.
Organizers said the event represents the Special Olympics continued commitment to increase awareness, raise funds, and provide support for South Carolina’s over 30,000 Special Olympic athletes.
“It has been going on for over 40 years,” said Lt. Keith Thrower with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s Tactical Operations team. “The first one was started in Wichita, Kansas and it kinda morphed out of that and really grew and exploded. In South Carolina, we almost raised $1 million for the Special Olympics last year.
The relay began at the Jervey Meadows field at Clemson University.
Officers will now escort the torch to the steps of the Statehouse in Columbia.
Lt. Thrower said he ran about 30 miles last year and that the relay holds a special place in his heart.
“It is personal to me,” Thrower said. “My son has down syndrome. My youngest child. He is going to be out there participating here shortly in some of these games. To have that interaction on a personal level with him and to know what some of these athletes have to deal with and them still be successful at these games it is really personally satisfying for me.”
The first part of the torch run will conclude on the steps of the South Carolina Statehouse on Friday, May 12th.
The torch’s arrival will be followed by announcing the beginning of the 2023 Special Olympics Summer Games with all of the athletes in attendance.
“It is tremendous,” Thrower said. “I have a huge lump in my throat. It is just incredible. They are all screaming and yelling. All the soldiers are yelling and screaming. It is a neat experience. I encourage anyone, if you haven’t, it is something you need to be a part of.”
Other agencies involved told 7NEWS that being a part of an event like this one is special every year.
“Our agency has been involved in the past several different times,” said Lt. Rusty Scogins with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team. “We wanted to continue being involved in it. It is a great cause, Special Olympics. Why wouldn’t you want to get involved in a good cause like that?”
Officers will continue their journey for a 7.5 mile run from the capitol to Fort Jackson, where the torch will be used to light the cauldron for the Summer Games.