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Torch run to kick off Special Olympics Saturday

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By The Staff

TELL CITY - Local law-enforcement officers will gather to carry the Special Olympics Indiana Flame of Hope as a part of the community's annual track and field meet, which will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at Legion Field in Tell City.

In honor of Special Olympics Indiana's 40th anniversary, the event will feature a number of special activities, including a welcome address from a member of the city council.

Special Olympics Indiana - Perry County and St. Meinrad Abbey-Cooperative Action for Community Development Inc., have hosted this annual track and field event since Special Olympics' inception.

During the first year of the event, approximately 70 athletes participated in track and field activities.

This year's event is expected to include nearly 200 Special Olympics Indiana athletes from southern Indiana, including Dubois, Harrison, Orange, Perry, Spencer, Warrick and Vanderburgh counties.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for the community to see what our athletes can accomplish," said Vicky Lutgring, Perry County Coordinator for Special Olympics Indiana.

"As we celebrate our anniversary, it is so inspiring to see the difference that Special Olympics has made in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and the community members that support them.  It is truly amazing the way Special Olympics can change your life."

The torch run will kick off the event, with law-enforcement officers carrying the Flame of Hope from the Perry County Courthouse through city streets to Legion Field.

The celebration will continue with a parade of athletes with a color guard from the American Legion and an invocation by a representative from St. Meinrad Abbey. The event will also include a performance of the National Anthem and the recitation of the Special Olympics oath, followed by a morning full of track-and-field and bocce events.

Since 1987, law-enforcement officers from around Indiana have been carrying the torch to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics athletes as part of the Indiana Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.  

Previously, an annual relay run carried the Flame of Hope from the Final Leg Kickoff Ceremony at Victory Field in Indianapolis along U.S. Route 40 to the campus of Indiana State University in Terre Haute for the annual Special Olympics Indiana Summer Games.

However, throughout the month of May this year, law-enforcement officers will carry the torch around the state as part of 40 celebratory events that will count down to the 40th annual summer games.

The Perry County torch run will be the first of at least 13 regional torch runs held in Special Olympics communities statewide.

Officers and Special Olympics athletes will gather June 5 at Victory Field in Indianapolis, home of the Indianapolis Indians baseball team.

Officers will light a cauldron with the Flame of Hope and the first events of the 2009 games will take place, in honor of the inaugural Special Olympics Indiana Games at Bush Stadium (former home to the Indianapolis Indians) June 5, 1969.

Later in the day, officers will run the torch to the campus of Indiana State University, marking the official start of the games.

Last year, 262 officers participated in the final leg of the torch run throughout Indiana.

Lt. Mike Beck of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy and chair of the Indiana Law Enforcement Torch Run program, hopes to raise at least $20,000 this year with a number of local torch runs.  

"While the Law Enforcement Torch Run program is so much more than a run, this event is really the driving force behind the law-enforcement community's support of Special Olympics Indiana," said Beck.

"We are very pleased to have this many communities willing to host a local run to help raise awareness for Special Olympics and fund programs like the annual State Games in Terre Haute."