By Suet Lee-Growney, Fort Riley Public AffairsJune 8, 2017
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- More than 400 Soldiers and civilians from Fort Riley participated in the 35th annual Law Enforcement Torch Run June 1 organized by staff and volunteers of Special Olympics Kansas. The purpose of the run is to raise awareness and money to benefit the Special Olympics athletes.
Kansas law enforcement officers serve as Guardians of the Flame. They ensure the Flame of Hope, which is passed through 52 counties from more than 97 law enforcement agencies in the state, is delivered to the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics held in Maize, Kansas.
The Flame of Hope was passed from Riley County Police Department to 97th Military Battalion at the Ogden Gate. From there, companies in the 97th MP Bn., 10th Air Support Operations Squadron and members of the Directorate of Emergency Services took turns running a portion of the 6-mile route all the way to Grant Gate where Junction City Police Department carried on the flame. During the torch run, the public stepped out of their vehicles and work to encourage the officers as they ran.
According to the Special Olympics website, the torch run of this magnitude is the largest grassroots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle for the organization.
The Fort Riley run was led by Lt. Col. Ann Meredith, commander of 97th MP Bn., and a special team of Army physical fitness test high scorers of the battalion. Among the special team was Spc. Ike Horn.
"(The special team) are all pieces of the unit and we selected them to come carry the colors and torch with us," Horn said. "We love being within the community and helping out."
Meredith said the torch run is great because it brings awareness to the Special Olympics, which is a phenomenal event and organization.
"I think it's a great partnership between local law enforcement and the Special Olympics all together," Meredith said. "It benefits the athletes participating and that's what we are here to support."
"We are very excited to do (this) and we are honored to carry the torch," she said.
Luke Schulte, vice president of development and the torch run, hopes by carrying the torch through Fort Riley, the military police officers and the public will now equate the flames to the Special Olympics.
"Our athletes love officers; they love people in uniform," Schulte said. "It's probably one of the most unique relationships that I have ever seen … they protect those with intellectual disabilities."
Spc. Cydney McHenry, 287th Military Police Company, 97th MP Bn., said everyone who participated in the run pushed each other to do well because they were doing it for a good cause
"This is my second torch run so I already know what to expect," McHenry said. "I was telling everybody about it trying to get them pumped up and we had a good time."
"It's really motivating, especially when you get toward the end and you get to see the people you were doing it for, and you just get to see their faces. They're excited; you're excited -- makes you feel great."
McHenry stressed the importance of always doing her best in an events like this because she never knows who's watching her.
"You never know who you're motivating when you're out there doing stuff," she said. "I know (the run) is inspirational to me, and I know it is to others as well."