LPD carries Special Olympics torch

 Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick

Officer Mike Combs, Sgt. Dave Wiseman, and Officer Chris Francis are the first London Police Department employees to participate in the Ohio Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. Rebecca Bell (far right) was one of dozens of Madison County athletes on hand to welcome the runners to Cowling Park for a picnic June 27.

Photo courtesy of London Police Officer Brad Aleshire

Special Olympics athletes and fans applaud as torch runners make their way into Cowling Park.


Photo courtesy of London Police Officer Brad Aleshire

Athletes enjoy a picnic lunch, courtesy of the London Police Department, other city personnel, and several merchants.

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick

Athletes, torch runners, and London Police Chief Pete Tobin (far left, kneeling) pose for a group photograph before the athletes head out for the Summer Games. 

Every year, the Law Enforcement Torch Run makes a stop in London on its way to the Ohio Special Olympics Summer Games in Columbus. This year, for the first time, London police officers were among the runners who carried the flame.

“It’s a good cause—a chance to give something instead of just getting a paycheck,” said Chris Francis, who participated in the run with fellow officer Mike Combs and Sgt. Dave Wiseman.

The Cincinnati leg of the Torch Run began on June 25 and passed through Madison County on June 27. The London police officers’ turn started at the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy on Route 56 north of London and ended at the city limits on its way to West Jefferson. All totaled, they ran about three miles.

Before heading out of town, the runners stopped at Cowling Park, where they were cheered by Madison County’s Special Olympics athletes and treated to a picnic lunch, courtesy of the London Police Department.

“With our new field house here at the park and our large number of Olympians, we thought, ‘Why not throw them a send-off picnic?’” said London Police Chief Pete Tobin.

The picnic is a new feature of the Torch Run stop in London. Bob Evans, Kroger, Perkins, Save-a-lot and Walmart donated food, and police and other city personnel cooked and served the food.

“It was a nice time and the athletes loved it. This will be a tradition,” Tobin said.

Michael E. Laage, chief of police for Springdale, Ohio, participated in the run into London and was impressed with the efforts of Tobin and his department.

“Chief Tobin is a prime example of chiefs getting more involved in this,” said Laage, whose son, Joe, is the first Special Olympian to design the Summer Games T-shirt. Laage also serves as president of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.

This year’s Special Olympics Summer Games took place June 27-29 on The Ohio State University campus. Madison County’s 28 athletes and unified partners are affiliated with the Madison County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

The Games featured competition for more than 2,700 athletes from across Ohio. The program included competition in 11 sports, as well as recreational clinics and other activities.

History of Torch Run

Chief Richard LaMunyan of the Wichita, Kansas, Police Department organized the first Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics in 1981. Since then, the event has grown to include 50 states, nine provinces in Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Ohio’s run began in 1985. Each year, over 1,100 law enforcement personnel depart from eight Ohio cities and cover almost 1,000 miles.

Last year, the run raised $30.1 million worldwide. The Ohio portion netted $340,000. All of the money stays in the state or country in which it is raised. The event is run entirely by volunteers.

Photo courtesy of London Police Officer Brad Aleshire

Joe Laage, the first Special Olympics athlete to design the Summer Games t-shirt, holds the torch.

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