Members of law enforcement support Special Olympics with torch run
MADAWASKA, Maine — Members of law enforcement agencies across the state showed their community spirit and support for the Special Olympics of Maine June 5-8 as they ran several miles each to relay a torch toward the University of Maine in Orono for the opening ceremony Friday.
The northern leg of the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run started in Fort Kent Wednesday morning with officers and supporters from that area running to Pelletier Avenue in Frenchville to hand off the torch to another contingent of officers from the Madawaska area.
Some 700 members of law enforcement and supporters participate in the annual event each year with groups starting in the north and south of the state to run toward UMaine for the start of the Special Olympics. Local police counterparts from southern Maine started their run in Sanford on Tuesday.
Participants find sponsors to support them on their respective legs to raise money for the Special Olympics. The Law Enforcement Torch Run raised close to $400,000 statewide last year, according to Lisa Bird, the liaison law enforcement torch run director.
The Madawaska Police Department raised $1,564 this year, the most since 2015. In 2011, officers raised $2,028 — the most raised overall since the beginning of the run in Madawaska in 1991. The largest donor group in Madawaska is the Knights of Columbus Council 2638.
For the Madawaska portion of Wednesday’s run, officers from the Madawaska Police Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection gathered at the police station around 9:30 a.m. before heading to Frenchville for the handoff.
Customs and Border Protection officer Michele Ferland participated in the run as a runner for the second year in a row. She was a driver for protection the year before she first ran.
“I like being part of supporting the Special Olympics,” Ferland said before the run Wednesday. “I like representing my agency, law enforcement, and my community.”
That was the view of many participants in the run including Garrett Albert and Trevor Bellefleur, both first year runners, and Samuel Dechaine, a second year runner for the cause. All three officers were recent graduates of the academy and reminisced about the times when they did the obstacle course with Special Olympic athletes during their time in the academy.
In Frenchville, dispatcher Carrigan Levesque of the Fort Kent Police Department handed off the torch from her group to the Madawaska contingent to continue on.
“I’ve volunteered with the [National Honor Society] in the past, and I believe the Special Olympics is a great organization,” Levesque said. “I’ll do all I can to support it.”
Officers were joined at the Tim Horton in Madawaska by clients of the St. John Valley Associates, which provides community and residential support to adults with intellectual disabilities. The clients, some of whom are also Special Olympians, joined in the trek and proudly carried the torch for several blocks down Main Street.
Ferland said she hoped people would see the good that law enforcement does for the community.
“People usually only see what we do at work and not the pride we take in our own communities,” Ferland said.
Other officers and supporters continued relaying the torch through various communities to raise funds and awareness for the Special Olympics.
According to a press release sent out by Lisa Bird, director of public relations for Special Olympics Maine, this year marks the 49th annual Special Olympics summer games for the state of Maine, and the 50th anniversary of the entirety of Special Olympics started by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968.
The games began Thursday morning with bowling, though the opening ceremonies and torch lighting scheduled for Friday evening at the University of Maine in Orono. Closing ceremonies of the summer games were set for Sunday.
Follow Morgan Mitchell on Twitter @TheMaineMorgan