Eagle County Torch Run fundraiser celebrates Special Olympics | SummitDaily.com

Eagle County Torch Run fundraiser celebrates Special Olympics

The Torch Run was a fundraiser for the state Special Olympics that will be run June 5-7 in Grand Junction.
Leo Wolfson / Special to the Daily |

The Colorado Special Olympics are only a couple weeks away, and to help raise awareness for the event, a Law Enforcement Torch Run fundraiser was held throughout Eagle County on Friday.

Over 30 athletes, participants and volunteers gathered for the run that started at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum, and ended near the base of Vail Ski Area. The Special Olympics torch, or “Flame of Hope,” was carried by law enforcement officers, volunteers and athletes the entire way; embodying the spirit of the Special Olympics cause.

“The initial thought of carrying the torch is, wow, this is really tiring holding a torch in the air, but I believe it symbolizes more than that pain. It symbolizes bringing the torch across the state to the Special Olympics, and recognizing those that deserve it,” said participant Scott Peterson of Gypsum.

“Special Olympics is all about giving encouragement to everybody that they can achieve their best, and so no matter who they are, they can have that moment of glory,” said event organizer Daric Harvey.

“I just like to participate in any sport they have,” said Zach Koobel. Koobel is a physically handicapped athlete that competes in summer and winter Olympics. He also goes all the way down to the Front Range to compete in power soccer.

Even though it was called a torch run, athletes were also allowed to bike. Special Olympian Jenny Feldman biked all the way from Avon to Vail for the cause. She experienced a little rain during her ride, but was no worse for the wear.

“We got soaked when we were in Avon; it was just pouring, but it was still fun,” said Feldman with a bright smile.

Feldman, a three-sport athlete in Special Olympics and 21-year veteran of the games, competes in bowling, swimming and biking. She says she has too many medals and ribbons to count.

Others, like Peterson, decided to run. Peterson ran 22 miles on the day, by far the most out of any participant.

“It’s great to see people that are running for them (Special Olympians), unfortunately in society they tend to get a lot of negative attention, and this is great positive attention that they deserve,” Peterson said of his motivations. It was Peterson’s eighth year running in the event.

Eagle County law enforcement officers were on-hand for the entire run with squad cars and a fire truck that helped separate runners and bikers from traffic. The fire truck even let off a couple sirens; much to the pleasure of those on hand.

Eagle County EMS, Beaver Creek Public Safety, CDOT and Colorado State Patrol also assisted with the event.

As the runners and bikers came through Vail, the sun poked out of the clouds, providing a steamy, yet beautiful finish to the epic journey. After the long trek, weary athletes and volunteers gathered for a post-run meal at the Four Seasons Hotel. It was a time of celebration over a successful torch run, and one could also feel building excitement for the upcoming state Special Olympics. The state games will be held in Grand Junction from June 5-7.

A total of $790 was raised on the day but to Vail police chief Dwight Henninger, the day was about much more than fundraising.

“Just seeing the athletes smiles when they cross the finish line is my favorite part of it all,” said Henninger. “During Friday’s torch run there was no shortage of those.”

“It was fun supporting Special Olympics,” said Feldman proudly.

These athletes deserve to be recognized and on Friday they got their showcase. Now it’s their turn to represent their communities at the state games.

Various torch runs, relays and other fundraisers are being held throughout the state in preparation for the state games and world games that will be held in Los Angeles, California, in July. If interested in volunteering for the Colorado or World games, register online at specialolympicsco.org or contact volunteer manager Katie Roche at 720-359-3130.

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