Wearing “Torch Run” T-shirts and running shoes, a squad of UCPD officers escorted the Special Olympics torch through the city of Berkeley and the UC Berkeley campus this morning. Eight campus officers traded off carrying the “Flame of Hope” on this leg of its journey to UC Davis, where the Special Olympics of Northern California will take place this weekend.
“You can see firsthand the kind of benefit the Special Olympics provides for these athletes,” said Sgt. Sabrina Reich, who was part of the UCPD team and has volunteered with the Special Olympics in the past. “The games help build life and social skills for participants. I’m really proud and honored to be able to continue to help raise money for this kind of event through my position in law enforcement.”
The UCPD team received the torch from Emeryville police at the corner of San Pablo and Ashby avenues at 10 a.m. From there, the runners carried it east up Ashby Avenue, north on Adeline Street, east on Dwight Way, turning north again at Telegraph Avenue and running the torch onto the Berkeley campus via Sproul Plaza. UCPD vehicles provided an escort.
After a quick photo beneath Sather Gate, the team finished its three-mile leg on Berkeley’s Crescent Lawn at Oxford and Center streets. There, UCPD officers passed the torch to their colleagues from the Berkeley Police Department.
The 2017 Torch Run continues a longstanding partnership between law enforcement and the Special Olympics. Since the first run in 1981 in Wichita, Kansas, the event has grown into one of the largest public-awareness and fundraising events for the Special Olympics. Now, nearly 100,000 law enforcement officers carry the torch every year.
UCPD has participated in the Torch Run for more than 15 years, and UC Berkeley has been the host site for the Special Olympic Games twice, including the inaugural Special Olympic Games of Northern California in 1995. The games returned to Berkeley in 2008.
“The Torch Run is a really meaningful event,” said UCPD detective Jack Kelly, who first participated in the event in 2000 and took part again today. “The Special Olympics make such an impact in the lives of people with disabilities and their families. The Torch Run is a way to give back to those communities and raise awareness and support. Plus, it’s fun to be able to run through the city.”