A step at a time, the torch moved closer to Arlington — and, a step at a time, its message burned just a bit brighter.
Odessa police and area officers participated alongside El Paso representatives on their way through the city on the Law Enforcement Torch Run on Tuesday morning, on the torch’s way to Special Olympics Texas’ 2018 Summer Games coming up this weekend at UT-Arlington.
OPD vehicles escorted runners through a ceremonial stretch of the run down Third Street downtown, before a ceremony was held outside the Odessa Police Department building.
Officers from El Paso opened the West Texas Leg of the torch run on Sunday, and were set to join another ceremony in Abilene on Wednesday, before making it to Arlington on Thursday in time for the opening events of SOTX’s statewide Summer Games on Friday.
“We’re carrying the torch for the athletes from El Paso all the way to Arlington,” said Sgt. Roberto Cardenas of the El Paso Police Department.
“People see us running by, and they start to ask questions, ‘What are you doing? Why are you doing this?’ — and it’s an opportunity for us to bring Special Olympics up to the podium and give some awareness of what are the athletes’ needs and what we can do for them,” Cardenas added.
SOTX’s Summer Games will run Friday through Sunday, marking the 48th anniversary of the statewide event.
The organization expects more than 400 law enforcement officers and first responders from around the state will participate in delivering the Flame of Hope at the event’s Opening Ceremony on Friday.
More than 2,900 athletes from across the state are registered for competition.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run is boasted as the largest public awareness vehicle and grassroots fundraiser for Special Olympics organizations. In 2017, torch runners in Texas raised about $3 million for Special Olympics programs.
Cardenas encouraged Odessans to participate in area fundraisers like the torch run, which can help local athletes competing in Special Olympics events.
Donations offered through SOTX.org can be sent to the organization’s specific areas, like Area 18, which encompasses the Permian Basin and Big Bend regions.
“All of these are community events that are fun for the entire family, and all the money goes to the athletes,” Cardenas said.
“All the money that they get from the events here stay for the local athletes,” he added. “That’s why it’s important for the local community to get involved. It’s money for their community athletes.”