Amidst the blazing midday heat and zooming traffic, members of the Scotch Plains and Departments carried a torch for a very special cause, participating in a national Police movement to raise funds for the Special Olympics.
The Special Olympics Torch Run was founded in1981 by Wichita, Kansas, Police Chief Richard LaMunyon who saw an urgent need to raise money for the Special Olympics. In 2011, the Torch Run raised $42 million, making it the largest grassroots fundraiser in the country.
Now, every precinct in New Jersey participates in the torch run with about 19 legs across the state. Runners in Cranford, Westfield, Scotch Plains and Fanwood participate in the Elizabeth to Princeton leg of the race.
This year, Westfield runners passed the torch to Scotch Plains Police at the 7/11 on South. Scotch Plains Police passed the torch to Fanwood at the Sunoco on South Avenue and ran with the Fanwood group to Front Street where the torch was passed to Plainfield Police.
Fanwood Police have taken the cause one step further, inviting local athletes to run in the race. Assistant to the Chief Trigo, Dianne stated that incorporating the importance of “athletes supporting athletes” began with her son John’s motivation to participate four years earlier.
“Because we are a small department, Chief Trigo decided to involve athletes from the community,” Howarth said. “My son took this on as his own cause during his freshman year at the high school. That year, he was the only student athlete to run but the next year, all of his football buddies decided to run too. Now, other precincts have begun to invite student athletes as well.”
Fanwood Police Sargent Frank Marrero ran the torch run with his son Frankie, who is an athlete at the high school.
“I think that this is a wonderful cause – I’ve done it 10 times!” “It’s great that we have four athletes from the high school participating this year. Dr. Heisey has been very supportive of the cause, allowing the kids to take a couple hours off of school to participate.”
Detective Chin, now in his 25th year with the Fanwood Police Department, has served as the Torch Run Liaison, organizing the Fanwood run for over 20 years.
“This cause means a lot to me,” Chin said. “I became involved with the torch run because at the time, no Police departments in the area were participating. I had seen how important the Special Olympics are to the kids, and I wanted to help. Local residents and the PBA sponsor the runners and their donations help pay for new equipment and training for the Special Olympics.”