The 8th Annual Law Enforcement Special Olympics Torch Run was a huge success from beginning to end this year in Hamilton County.
Statewide each year, over 5,000 law enforcement officers carry the torch on a 1,500 mile relay through 67 counties in Florida to benefit the athletes of Special Olympics Florida. The event is held prior to the Special Olympics Florida State Summer Games.
The intrastate torch relay begins in March and culminates at the opening ceremonies at Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Bueau Vista on May 16-17. Officers from around the state join together to bring the Flame of Hope into the stadium.
Barbecue kicks off event
On March 28, Hamilton CI kicked off the event with a barbecue at the Hamilton County Women’s Center in Jasper. The event was coordinated by Lieutenant Kathy Curry and co-coordinated by Sergeant L. Hunter.
Hamilton CI staff raised $516 from sales of the meals and those funds went toward this worthy cause. Staff also sold Special Olympics merchandise and participated in the Torch Run and the passing of the torch.
Curry said all the participants assisting with the preparation of the barbecue volunteered their services and worked diligently to make it a great success.
“The cooking volunteers started preparations early in the morning with delicious yellow rice and chicken, green beans, mac-n-cheese, bread rolls, brownies and canned drinks,” said Curry.
Special thanks go out to the assisting volunteers: Mrs. Mary Jackson-Godbolt, Sergeant L. Hunter, Officer E. Robinson, Officer Y. Wheeler, Ms. C. Wilson, Ms. C. Carodine, Ms. C. Gandy.
Warden T.D. Anderson and the administration team formed a serving line to assist in getting everyone fed on time during their lunch hour.
Food Service Department (Ms. C. Wilson) also provided transportation for deliveries to the requested locations. All proceeds from the Kick-off Barbecue were submitted to Special Olympics Florida.
“There was overwhelming support from non-security departments (OIT, Programs and Food Service), community businesses and other state / local county departments,” said Curry.
The Torch Run itself got off to an exciting start at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 22, when Suwannee passed on the torch to Hamilton at the Suwannee River dividing line between the two counties.
The next morning, Wednesday, April 23, the torch arrived at the Hamilton County High School (HCHS) campus where the weather was perfect for the opening ceremonies. A prayer was offered by HCHS student Jristin Smith and then Officer Akins from the Jasper Police Department (JAPD) and School Resource Officer Deputy Thomas from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) passed the torch off to runners Lance Griner, Lloyd Andrews, Delondra Knight, Amari Speights, and Emmitt Dowels.
Later that morning, HCSO Sheriff Harrell Reid and his deputies, JAPD Chief Jeff McGuire and his officers, Hamilton CI Assistant Warden B. Mallard, Col. Stewart, Sergeant Emily Lumpkin and the HCSO Explorers, HCHS JROTC, officers from the Department of Corrections and the Department of Agriculture, as well as Special Olympics athletes met in downtown Jasper for the torch run to the county courthouse.
HCSO, JAPD and Ag Department vehicles provided traffic control by leading the procession of runners down Hatley Street with the torch held high and the American flag waving. When the runners arrived at the courthouse steps it was time for a group photo of all the participants.
Lunch was provided in the city park for all participants by Jasper Subway, located on US 129 and I-75. Many thanks to owner Alan Fogg, Director of Operations Dale Turner, and General Manager Amy White and her staff.
Passing the torch
The torch's journey continued to its next destination, Madison County, where law enforcement officers and Madison DOC met the Hamilton County group at the county line bridge on Hwy. 6 to pass the torch for their run the following day, Thursday, April 24.
Hamilton CI’s Assistant Warden B. Mallard, Colonel S.E. Stewart, Major C.E. Lane and Major M. Mitchell and staff, the Rapid Response Team (RRT), Sergeant Emily Lumpkin with the Sheriff’s Explorers and Helen Udell with Special Olympics athletes carried the torch and passed it to Madison County at the Blue Springs Bridge (Hamilton / Madison County line).
Thanks go out to Deputy Anthony Williams (HCSO), Deputy D. Crutchfield (SCSO), Police Chief Jeffery McGuire (JAPD) and Madison Police Department for traffic control during the passing of the torch at the county lines.
“A special thank you goes out to Lieutenant Kathy Curry from Hamilton CI and Coach Larue Lieupo for their hard work and dedication to bring together the different branches of law enforcement for a successful event and benefit that will end with great rewards,” said Udell.
Thanks also go out to the Hamilton County community, Greenwood School, and all the participants for their support of Special Olympics Hamilton County.