Lighting Our Fire: The Importance of the Special Olympics Colorado Torch Run

By Brenda Stuart, Special Olympics Colorado Parent

I guess you could call our athletes “The Keepers of the Flame.” Special Olympics Colorado athletes do more than compete in swimming, running, basketball and track. They share their love of competition by lighting a fire in everyone.

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock joins athletes in lighting the Olympic Torch

When my son, Jack, told me he wanted to take the day off of work to join the police officers who run with the torch, I didn’t quite understand his passion. Yes, the Law Enforcement Torch Run raises money for the 15,000 Special Olympics athletes who compete in Colorado every year. But it also raises awareness. Jack explained to me he wanted everyone in Denver to see how important the games are, and he wanted to encourage donors to give so he and others can continue to compete.

The Denver event is one of 17 torch runs throughout the state which raise about a million dollars a year for the athletes. The Tribute Torch Run at the Capitol in Denver raised $6,000 in just one day. If my son had his way, we would be traveling to every one of them. I learned by watching him run and interact with other athletes that the flame symbolizes more than hope. It’s also a symbol of Colorado’s generosity and of solidarity between the athletes and law enforcement officers. They know the officers are rooting for them… on the field and off.

It’s tough to say who Jack enjoyed hanging out with more, the officers from throughout the Front Range, or the mascots he’s been watching all his life.

Jack Ryan posing with Denver Police and Bernie, the Colorado Avs Mascot

He answered my question without hesitation: “The police and sheriff’s officers because they’re the guardians of the flame.” I guess he’s always carried a torch for law enforcement, knowing they’ll protect him and others with intellectual disabilities if he gets lost. And yes, they even let him carry the torch during their run. Unfortunately, I’m not fast enough to keep up with any of them long enough to take a picture. But the smile on his face and the faces of the other athletes remains priceless.

Brenda Stuart is a Denver journalist and frequent volunteer with Special Olympics Colorado. Her son’s favorite activities are swimming, basketball, and special events like Tip-a-Cop, the Plane Pull, and the Polar Plunge.

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