Photo by Heather Middleton
By Kathy Jefcoats
Dozens of Clayton County police officers, firefighters, emergency services personnel, and sheriff's deputies, gathered Thursday morning in Jonesboro to light the official Special Olympics torch, and carry it to the Fulton County line.
The torch will light the cauldron during opening ceremonies tonight at Emory University's McDonough Field.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run has a long tradition in Georgia, as personnel show their support for Special Olympics. This year marks the run's 25th anniversary.
"We appreciate the participation of everyone here," said Clayton County Police Chief Greg Porter. "We want everyone to have fun, but don't be a superhero."
The caravan from police headquarters in Jonesboro, up Ga. 54, to Fulton County, included golf carts, so tired runners could easily take a break, and then rejoin the group.
The refrigerated mobile command unit carried cold, bottled water and bananas, so runners could stay hydrated, and nourished.
Runners spanned all ages, races and fitness levels.
Porter joked with the group as they got started, "Hope you can keep up with us."
Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Chief Jeff Hood represented his department. "We're glad to be here," he said.
Once the run started, the torch was passed from Porter, so everyone had a turn carrying it.
Some of those same officers participated earlier this month in Cops on Shops, a fund-raiser for Special Olympics, in which officers spent an entire weekend on top of the Riverdale Krispy Kreme doughnut shop. Lt. Tina Daniel, who lit the torch Thursday, took a turn on top of the shop.
"It's for a good cause," she said. "We've always supported Special Olympics, and we appreciate everyone's assistance."
More than 2,600 Special Olympics athletes, Unified Partners and coaches from around the state will participate in this weekend's games.
Events include tennis, aquatics, soccer, badminton, volleyball, gymnastics and table tennis.
The first International Special Olympics Summer Games were held in Chicago in 1968. However, Special Olympics started off in 1962 as a backyard summer camp for people with intellectual disabilities.
The camp was organized by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a sister of President Kennedy. Another sibling, Rosemary Kennedy, was born in 1918, with special needs. She died in 2005.