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Torch Run unites police, Special Olympians

Inspector Richard Konarski, right, carries the torch and leads the Law Enforcement Torch Run alongside three Special Olympics athletes, including  Matthew Williams, second from left, who says the Games have given him the opportunity to meet new people and travel. - Miranda GATHERCOLE/Langley Times
Inspector Richard Konarski, right, carries the torch and leads the Law Enforcement Torch Run alongside three Special Olympics athletes, including Matthew Williams, second from left, who says the Games have given him the opportunity to meet new people and travel.
— image credit: Miranda GATHERCOLE/Langley Times

Some of Langley’s most dedicated RCMP officers showed their support for Special Olympics BC on Tuesday, by foregoing their usual uniforms and taking to the streets in running shoes and matching black shirts for the 21st annual Law Enforcement Torch Run.

With a glowing torch leading them, the officers and some of Langley’s Special Olympics athletes followed a route from The Langley RCMP Detachment in Murrayville to Douglas Park Elementary.

Special Olympics BC is an organization that provides opportunities for people with disabilities to participate and compete in sporting events.

The 2011 Law Enforcement Torch Run started in Abbotsford on June 7 and will end in Delta on June 10. By that time, the torch will have passed through 20 communities across British Columbia — 14 of them in the Lower Mainland.

“It’s amazing,” said Megan Grittani-Livingston, communications manager for Special Olympics BC. “It’s actually a very interesting year because there have been a lot of communities outside of the Lower Mainland joining in and doing their runs for the first time. And it’s exciting to see that after 20 years the torch run is growing. It’s really inspirational to see so many law personnel involved.”

Matthew Williams, the Special Olympics International Global Messenger and a Langley athlete, ran at the front of the pack beside the torch. The 19-year-old says events like these are very special to him and his fellow athletes.

“It means a lot because it gets out awareness to other people about how important Special Olympics is to people with disabilities, and to have that opportunity to meet new people and have a chance to win that support,” he said.

Williams, who has been involved with Special Olympics BC for five years says his favourite part is  “getting to meet new people and just seeing how it changes people’s lives. Having that opportunity to meet new friends and traveling to nations and different places definitely means a lot to me.”

Williams has been given the chance to try speed skating, basketball, curling, soccer, track and field, softball and many other sports and has flourished in them all. For others like him, programs put on by the Special Olympics BC have sparked enthusiasm and joy, and have brought dignity to those with disabilities.

“I think it’s changed my life a lot,” Williams said.

“It’s raised a lot of confidence in me to get out there and not be afraid to reach for goals that I desire. And anything is possible as long as you work for it.”

The run was concluded with a softball game at Douglas Park, played by RCMP torch run participants, Special Olympics athletes and students from Douglas Park Elementary.

“I really admire the community and the people involved in Special Olympics,” Grittani-Livingston said.  “It’s an amazing group of people here with the athletes. They are interesting and supportive of each other and show great sportsmanship. They’re so cool and the volunteers are so dedicated. It’s impressive to see.”

Since its beginning in 1990, the Law Enforcement Torch Run has raised over $3 million to support Special Olympics athletes, but Grittani-Livingston says its about far more than just dollar signs.

“Fundraising is a part of the torch run for sure, but it is also about raising awareness about Special Olympics, about these leaders of the community showing their support for these special athletes and raising awareness with their presence,” she said.

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