PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The 45th Special Olympics of Pennsylvania Summer Games start on Thursday.
In advance of the competition, law enforcement from across the state will band together and carry the “Flame of Hope” to State College.
The “Be a Fan Torch Run” is in its fourth year and involves law enforcement from 56 agencies. The torch was lit during a ceremony at PNC Park Monday morning and will travel 150 miles to the summer games.
“Running through potholes, weather conditions, hot. If it rains, it doesn’t matter. We’re there for the athletes,” said Pittsburgh Police Cmdr. Scott Schubert. “To see all the athletes and their families in the stands, when we come in with the torch and light the cauldron, it’s an experience that you’ll never forget.”
Athletes helped walk the torch around the bases at PNC Park and some will also join parts of the trek to State College.
Janicesa Rockwell, an athlete and student at Franklin Regional, says Special Olympics means so much to all who compete.
“When I earned my first medal, I felt proud of myself. I couldn’t stop smiling,” said Rockwell. “My parents, teachers and friends were all proud of me, but most important, I was proud of myself.”
Special Olympics President and CEO Matt Aaron said the work to raise money for SOPA does not go unnoticed.
“Where society often tells our athletes ‘no’ and ‘you can’t’ and ‘you have a disability, so therefore you shouldn’t try this,’ Special Olympics is the organization that says ‘yes.’” said Aaron.
He also added that some 20,000 athletes can participate free of charge due to the hard work of so many, but that is only a fraction of those who qualify to compete.