By Andrea Stone (Fort Carson)May 30, 2013
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Gusty winds may have blown out the light of the torch, but the message it represented couldn't be extinguished as Soldiers of the 759th Military Police Battalion ran the Law Enforcement Torch Run to benefit Special Olympics at Iron Horse Park May 21.
"You escorted this flame of hope around your installation here, bringing opportunities and challenges and life-changing events to athletes, young folks, old folks, ages 2 to 90, who live with intellectual disabilities every day," said Ralph Maher, deputy state director for the southeast area for the Law Enforcement Torch Run, during remarks to the more than 100 Soldiers who participated.
The run has been going for 42 years, and a part of Fort Carson for about 15, according to Maher. "The run is a symbolic message of inclusion and of good faith and safe passage for our athletes."
About four years ago, the structure of the run was changed. Prior to that, it was a point-to-point torch relay, ending at the location of the national competition. "We were running on interstates, tying up traffic. We were running for cows and chickens. We were running on byways where nobody could see and nobody would understand what we were doing, and we decided that that wasn't fulfilling our mission of awareness," Maher said.
Now the Torch Run is a two-mile race that anyone can participate in. Primarily an opportunity to raise awareness for Special Olympics, it is also a fundraiser. Sgt. 1st Class Edward Tierney's 8-year-old son helped raise funds for the event. "We know it (Special Olympics) helps," said Edward Tierney, first sergeant, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 759th MP Bn. "He has autism, but he was overjoyed to go out and help."
Funds raised for Special Olympics benefit not just athletes in Colorado, but the Fort Carson community as well. "On Fort Carson alone, there's over 480 Family members in the Exceptional Family Member Program that stand to benefit from this," said Master Sgt. Shawn Walden, 759th MP Bn., during remarks. "We've got Families on this installation that don't take part because they don't believe there's anyone who really cares in the military. You've got that opportunity right now … to prove that we can make a difference and get involved."
Capt. Alexander Raggio, 984th Military Police Company, 759th MP Bn., has participated in the torch run since 2006, beginning at Fort Riley, Kan. "I think Special Olympics is a really great program," Raggio said. "When I grew up, my next door neighbor had Down syndrome, and there were a lot of things he couldn't do … seeing those kids and feeling that sense of accomplishment and pride, that's something that's important for every kid."