Special Olympics Torch Run takes to Caloosahatchee Bridge
They ran, they rode — they even rolled on in-line skates.
Nearly 100 members of law enforcement and other first responder agencies participated Friday in Lee County’s leg of the 26th annual Law Enforcement Torch Run that benefits Special Olympics Florida.
It is always a colorful sight.
The torch run began at Lee County Sheriff’s Office Headquarters on Six Mile Cypress Parkway with participants crossing the Caloosahatchee Bridge and ended in the Big Lots parking lot in North Fort Myers.
Along the way, law enforcement agency cars followed them with lights flashing.
Lee County is one of 67 counties in Florida taking part in the annual torch run. Representatives from the following agencies participated in the event: 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.
Many from the Police Academy and V.O.I.C.E. were volunteering both in the race and at the end to greet the torch bearers.
Two special envoys were Michelle Nawroski and Valerie Poole who greeted the incoming participants with a big sign and big smiles.
“They are Special Olympic athletes and Athlete Leaders for the program,” said Lee County’s Special Olympics coordinator Amanda Gutierrez, who also enthusiastically welcomed in participants to the final stretch.
“Michelle and Valerie do public speaking and advocacy. Monthly they do special training and do special events.”
Besides Gutierrez, other key coordinators were Nancy Apperson from the Lee County Port Authority Police and Jill Jones, Planner from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
For Jones, Special Olympics is a personal favorite cause.
“I have a child with special needs who is not involved with Special Olympics, but it is something I care about.”
This is her fourth year helping with the event, her first year to run, last year she biked. “One of my goals is to participate.
“I think one of the best parts is the interagency involvement, there are others, not just our local agencies. And I always participate in the final leg of the statewide event which will be held in May.
“Locally we come together to make it happen here. I love it.