Local law enforcement's annual Torch Run raises money for Specia - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Local law enforcement's annual Torch Run raises money for Special Olympics


Local police officers suit up in a different type of uniform to kick off a statewide effort for the Special Olympics.

Dressed in blue, local police officers hit the streets of Belvidere.

But the group has a different goal this weekend beyond fighting crime. They're fighting for those in our community with disabilities.

Lighting the flame for this year's Special Olympics Torch Run also ignites pride in area police.

"I reached out to two officers who I know run, and they said chief we would be glad to do it," said Chief Jan Noble of the Belvidere Police Department. "And here we are today, 9 years later."

Throughout the week, hundreds of officers from northern Illinois alone will run to raise money and awareness for the games that mean so much to local families.

"Every time I go to the state competition, I have the same feeling," said Michelle Rojas, a mother of a Special Athlete. "Everyone should have a moment in their life where they stop and go see these children and adults and how much heart they put into these activities. At every level, every disability."

Rojas said her son Niko, who has autism, thrives when he competes in Special Olympics.

Seeing that fire means a lot to those who hit the pavement Sunday morning.

"It's about bringing families together," said Detective Robert Kozlowski of the Belvidere Police Department. "We had some athletes running with us ... and just watching the smiles on their faces."

Runners hope to cross the finish line this year with even more money raised than years past. Last year, the Torch Run brought in about $4 million statewide. Dollars are raised through merchandise sales like t-shirts and hats, as well as runner registration fees.

But there's another goal that's just as important: building connections between police and the public.

"The idea that law enforcement is getting to know our kids, that way they can help them if there's a problem, and recognize what the issue is in a calm safe environment," said Rojas.

Officials say that's a winning combination for officers and special athletes alike.

One of the next stops for the Torch Run is in Rockford, which will meet on N. Rockton Ave. on Wednesday, June 8.

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