‘Flame of Hope’ honors Special Olympics

Members of a Federal Way police team showed their support for Special Olympics May 30 when they jogged Pacific Highway South carrying the “Flame of Hope.”

Members of a Federal Way police team showed their support for Special Olympics May 30 when they jogged Pacific Highway South carrying the “Flame of Hope.”

The seven-person team participated May 30 in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. The run proceeds each state, province or nation’s Special Olympics Summer Games and Winter Games. Law enforcement officers from around the world carry the torch in a series of relays that end in the location at which opening ceremonies take place. The relays increase public awareness for local Special Olympics teams.

“We just did it to raise awareness (of Special Olympics Washington),” said Stacy Eckert, who organized the city’s torch run.

In Washington, police teams from the Seattle, Kennewick, Spokane and Bothell areas carried the torch across the state. Federal Way Deputy Chief of Police Andy Hwang, officers Eric Mattson and Catrinoa Siber took part in Federal Way’s leg, beginning around 2 p.m. Friday and starting at South 272nd Street in Des Moines.

“I think for us, it’s really fun,” Hwang said.

Four representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security completed the relay with Federal Way police as well. Kent Police Capt. Mike Painter and Lt. Ken Thomas ran part of Federal Way’s relay.

Two police escorts on motorcycles led the team, an entourage of police vehicles from multiple jurisdictions and a recreational vehicle displaying the Special Olympics symbol followed, protecting the joggers from traffic.

The group jogged through construction on Pacific Highway South and into the heart of downtown Federal Way. The group jogged alongside the highway and then in the HOV lanes. Traffic slowed and some drivers tapped their car horns in support.

“It’s kind of nice to have all the community support,” Hwang said.

Eckert followed the torch from Federal Way to its final destination at McChord Air Force Base. In many of the cities the torch passed through, people waved and business owners came outside to see welcome the runners, she said

“The community outreach and support was amazing,” Eckert said.

The Federal Way group completed its approximately 8-mile trip at the Fife-Milton scales in a little more than two hours. Along the way, if runners became tired, they jumped into the R.V. and cross-country joggers from Henry Foss High School in Tacoma would replace participants until they were rejuvenated, Eckert said. The team handed off the torch to the Fife and Milton police departments, and by 7 p.m., the “Flame of Hope” had arrived at McChord, where the Special Olympics Washington 2008 Summer Games opening ceremonies began.

“Teams came in with banners and they walked through the arch, and we just stood there and high-fived and hugged them,” she said.

The experience was uplifting, Eckert said. Federal Way police plan to participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics next year as well, she said. Eckert and her colleagues are brainstorming ways to draw more participants and make the event a competition between Federal Way’s officers, she said.

“When you are actually in (the torch run) and participating, it’s addictive,” Eckert said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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In 2007, more than 85,000 law enforcement officers from around the globe participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, according to Special Olympics Web site, www.specialolympics.org. The “Flame of Hope” traveled through 35 nations, according to the same site.

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