Big Island Special Olympic athletes Sierra Whiteside and Kyle Fujihara speaking to participants of the Hawai’i County Police Department Law Enforcement Torch Run Kickoff at U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area, March 22, 2023.
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Big Island Special Olympic athletes Sierra Whiteside and Kyle Fujihara speaking to participants of the Hawai’i County Police Department Law Enforcement Torch Run Kickoff at U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area, March 22, 2023. (Photo Credit: Amy Philips) VIEW ORIGINAL
Hawai’i County Police Chief Ben Moszkowicz speaking to participants of the Hawai’i County Police Department Law Enforcement Torch Run Kickoff at U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area, March 22, 2023.
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Hawai’i County Police Chief Ben Moszkowicz speaking to participants of the Hawai’i County Police Department Law Enforcement Torch Run Kickoff at U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area, March 22, 2023. (Photo Credit: Amy Philips) VIEW ORIGINAL
First-ever Hawai’i County Torch Run Kickoff Held at Pōhakuloa Training Area
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Denise Lindsey, Special Olympics West Hawai’i area director speaking to participants of the Hawai’i County Police Department Law Enforcement Torch Run Kickoff at U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area, March 22, 2023. (Photo Credit: Amy Phillips) VIEW ORIGINAL
First-ever Hawai’i County Torch Run Kickoff Held at Pōhakuloa Training Area
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Hawai’i County Police Department held their first-ever Law Enforcement Torch Run Kickoff at U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area with more than a dozen supporting agencies in attendance, March 22, 2023. (Photo Credit: Amy Phillips) VIEW ORIGINAL

Hawai’i County Police Department (HPD) held their first-ever Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) Kickoff at U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area (PTA) with more than a dozen supporting agencies in attendance, March 22, 2023. This will also be PTA’s first time participating in the runs scheduled in April.

“This was the most epic kickoff,” said Heather Dansdill, Special Olympics Hawaii, East Hawaii Area Director. Dansdill is also an Army veteran who has trained at PTA in the past. “We’re super excited to have all of the law enforcement agencies as well as all the military involved.” Some agencies in attendance included HPD, Hawai’i Community Correctional Center, FBI, Department of Land and Natural Resources, and PTA Police Department.

This was the first time all participating agencies gathered in one place to provide information on the two Torch Runs planned on the island. Hawai’i County Police Chief Ben Moszkowicz asked PTA to host the kickoff event because of its central location on the island, making it easier for supporting agencies to attend. He has been involved with LETR for 10 years in many capacities, from being a runner to the statewide director, and everything in-between.

LETR’s mission is to raise awareness for people with intellectual disabilities. HPD is sponsoring two Torch Runs: April 23 in Kailua-Kona, and April 29 in Hilo. Contact Hawai’i County LETR Coordinator, Sgt. Jason Grouns for more information and register: jason.grounds@hawaiicounty.gov.

“Being in Special Olympics has made a huge impact in my life,” said Kyle Fujihara, who is a Special Olympics athlete in the East Hawaii Track & Field Team. He started competing in 2010 while in high school. After an 8-year pause due to COVID and other factors, Fujihara is very excited to re-engage with friends and working with new coaches.

HPD hosts several fundraisers throughout the year to raise awareness and support athletes and coaches, such as Cop on Top and Tip a Cop (http://sohawaii.org/letr). Dansdill says all the event proceeds go to the athletes and volunteers on the Big Island, which includes things like travel expenses, uniforms and coach clinics. “If you attend one of our events, you will probably never stop attending them,” said Dansdill. “It’s one of the most wholesome, happy, positive events you can partake in.”

“It’s a great opportunity, not only to participate in the run, but to interact with athletes,” said Moszkowicz. He added that Special Olympics provides an opportunity for law enforcement agencies, military and the community to give back and support “individuals with disabilities who are members of the community, right along us.”

“Pōhakuloa Training Area is excited to be part of this awareness campaign alongside so many of our community partners to support Hawai’i Special Olympics athletes in the community,” said PTA Commander Lt. Col. Kevin Cronin. “We plan on organizing a team of Soldiers to run in the event, and I’m looking forward to it!”

Special Olympics Hawaii was established in 1968, and serves more than 4,700 athletes and partners on every island in Hawai’i. For more information, visit http://sohawaii.org.