Special Olympics Torch Run takes to Caloosahatchee Bridge
A colorful sight occurred on the Caloosahatchee Bridge Friday, when nearly 100 law enforcement agents participated in Lee County’s annual Law Enforcement Torch Run to benefit Special Olympics Florida.
It started at Sheriff’s Office headquarters on Six Mile Cypress Parkway and finished at the Big Lots parking lot on U.S. 41 in North Fort Myers.
Police escorted both runners and bike riders along the bridge path, with lights flashing, while other participants cheered them on.
“Over 90 people were involved — our biggest event yet,” said Special Olympics Coordinator Amanda Gutierrez. “I want to thank all of the
law enforcement agents who participated on behalf of the athletes. They volunteered their time and helped bring awareness to the county about the program.”
The event is an intrastate relay involving more than 300 city, county, state and federal agencies throughout 67 counties in Florida, she continued.
Runners and riders included law enforcement personnel and first responders from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Myers Police Department, Cape Coral Police Department, Sanibel Police Department, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Lee County Port Authority Police and Lee County Parks and Recreation.
Nancy Apperson of the Lee County Port Authority Police is one of the key organizers.
“Special Olympics is very near and dear to my heart,” she said. “I’ve been involved with it since 1979. From a law enforcement point of view, this will be my 12th year.”
She rode her bike in the event, and said this was just one of several recent activities to raise funds for Special Olympics.
“We also raised over $10,000 last month in Lee County, assisting servers at Joe’s Crab Shack on the river,” she said. “Just to see the impact it (the fun-raising) has is incredible. Monies go to buy uniforms for the athletes, and to
their travel and more.”
Another key organizer was Jill Jones, of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
A more than familiar face each year at the finish line was North Fort Myers Albert Palmer, who helps with a water and banana station for the participants. Palmer has worked at the Alpha Substation of the Sheriff’s Department for over 21 years, as the Civilian Communications Clerical Engineer.
He’s been volunteering for the local torch run event for the last 10 years, and even helped organize a similar run throughout the State of Connecticut in 1987.
“It’s just something I enjoy to do,” he said.
Physically challenged himself, he supports Special Olympics and special athletes in many ways.
“I’ve also worked with the Special Populations Games Day in Cape Coral for 18 years,” he said. “They had 99 participants this year — all with special needs.”
He is so popular, they even named an event after him — the “Al Palmer Sports Bingo.”
“I was honored, and I loved doing it,” he said.
Next the torch run will be continued in Charlotte County.