The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

May 15, 2014

Special Olympics torch run visits Athens for first time

By Lora Scripps

— Cool weather made for a nice run Thursday as members of the Alabama Law Enforcement Torch Run carried the Flame of Hope for Special Olympics through Athens. The Torch Run, which included Athens for the first time, started at the Limestone County Courthouse on The Square and made its way to Athens Elementary School and back to the courthouse.

Police officers, deputies and troopers from across Alabama laced up their sneakers and hit the pavement, all for a good cause. The runners are carrying the torch across the state on a journey to the state Special Olympic Games this weekend at Troy University.

Athens Police Department had three members including Lt. Daniel McNatt and officers Jarrod Smith and Ben Garrett take part in the annual torch run. McNatt and Smith will continue the run across the state.

Special Olympians from the Birdie Thornton Center, who will compete in Troy this weekend, gathered on the steps of the Limestone County Courthouse and students at Athens Elementary gathered outside their school to cheer on the runners. The students held signs bearing the words, “Thank you!” and “We love you!”

Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said it was an uplifting morning. The chief is proud to see the torch run in Athens.

“The community support is truly awesome,” he said. “Special Olympics is one of the best causes out there.”

Johnson admits he and countless other officers love to see the twinkle and spark in the Olympians’ eyes.

He said the Olympians also love the officers, who volunteer their time to run and raise funds through events like Cops on Top.

“We are proud to be able to participate in such a good cause,” Johnson said.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Torch Run is a nonprofit organization composed of law enforcement officers on the federal, state and local level. The mission is to raise awareness and provide fundraising for Special Olympics of Alabama competitions and activities.

Johnson said he looks forward to the return of Alabama Law Enforcement Torch Run participants.

“When you go through the streets and have children cheering you on,” Johnson said. “It can’t get better than that. It’s just awesome to be a part of this.”