On April 30, traffic was halted at Oracle and Magee roads as the intersection was filled with motor officers, a Pima County Regional SWAT vehicle, but it wasn’t for an emergency, it was for Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics.

More than 200 runners with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department handed off the games’ torch to a group from the Oro Valley Police Department and they were on their way through the town on their five-mile leg of the journey to take the Special Olympic torch to the games in Phoenix.

The run began in 1981 when the chief of police in Wichita, Kan. saw a need to raise funds and awareness of the Special Olympics. The idea has evolved into now where participants collect contributions from people and businesses in support of the Special Olympics through doing numerous fund-raising activities such as tip-a-cop, golf tournaments, and other events.

Lt. Kara Riley has helped coordinate legs of the race for the past 23 years, which began when she worked for the police at the airport and she now coordinates the run for the Oro Valley Police Department.

“It’s a great event because you get to look at 200 people who have taken the time out of their day to raise awareness,” Riley said about the torch run. “It’s an immense amount of attention with the lights, sirens, motorcycles, and the police cars that go along with it.”

On April 30, the torch began with the Tucson Police Department, who then handed it off to Department of Public Safety and the Pima County Police Department. One they handed it off to the Oro Valley Police Department, they then handed it off to the U.S. Marshalls. Tohono-O’odham Police Department then handed the torch off to the Marana Police Department. About 13 hand offs later, the torch was in in Phoenix.

“I think it is a sense of bonding where it is a time where we are all unified for that one cause,” Riley said. “All law enforcement throughout the state is unified during this week for this cause.

“Everybody in law enforcement knows it is our time to once again, stop, take a break with the busy craziness that goes on with work, and really take the time to acknowledge and honor these athletes.”

The Special Olympics took place in Phoenix and Tempe from May 1 to May 3.

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