With the Summer Special Olympics opening on May 15 in Billings, state law enforcement personnel took to the road earlier this month to raise money in the annual Torch Run.
Madison County law enforcement teamed up with the Montana Highway Patrol to run the almost-65 miles from Virginia City to Whitehall.
In addition to law enforcement officers, members of the public ran for pledges they had collected.
The Torch Run began the first of May and consisted of 16 starting points around the state. Hundreds carried the Flame of Hope over 2,400 miles to its cauldron in Billings. The lighting of the cauldron officially kicks off the summer games. The Special Olympics Montana Athlete of the Year, who is accompanied by a law enforcement officer, lights the cauldron to signal the beginning of the competition.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run is the world’s largest grassroots fundraiser for Special Olympics. The Torch Run began in 1981 by Wichita, Kans., police who saw the need to raise funds and awareness for the Special Olympics.
Close to 145,000 law enforcement officers from all 50 states, 12 Canadian provinces and 48 countries contribute to the Torch Run annually.
Since the Montana Torch Run began in 1985, over four million dollars have been raised for state Special Olympics athletes.
In 2010, the Montana Torch Run gained worldwide recognition as the fourth highest per capita fundraising program in the world. In 2012, the run raised over $500,000.
More than 1,000 athletes are slated to participate in this year’s summer games. The athletes have trained for eight weeks to compete in 13 different events during the three-day competition. There are 80 teams from 50 Montana communities.