Athletes carry 'torch of hope'

Special Olympics torch advances through county

Special Olympics torch advances through county

June 16, 2005|by HEATHER KEELS


The brisk jog down Hagerstown's city streets Wednesday alongside the Special Olympics Torch was a breeze for Lee Follett of Smithsburg.

After all, the mentally disabled athlete, who has competed in the Special Olympics since he was 8, took home a gold medal in the 200-yard dash two years ago in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland.

Follett, 28, joined fellow athletes Linda Travis and Robert and Greg Strother, as well as police officers from the Hagerstown Police Department, Maryland State Police and the Washington County Sheriff's Department for a leg of the Maryland Law Enforcement Torch Run that took the "flame of hope" from Hancock to the Frederick County, Md., line, said Sgt. John Ryder, the event coordinator.


As the runners passed through Public Square at noon, Mayor Richard F. Trump cheered them on from the sidewalk.

"It's a very important cause," Trump said of the Special Olympics. "It elevates the importance of all people and gives these kids great personal value. Everybody needs to feel special."

The torch run will pass through Frederick, Carroll and Howard counties before arriving Friday at Towson (Md.) University for the opening ceremonies of the 2005 Special Olympics of Maryland Summer Games.

In addition to transporting the symbolic flame, the run also serves as a fundraiser and awareness event for Special Olympics Maryland, Ryder said.

Last year, law enforcement officers throughout the state raised about $1 million, according to the Special Olympics Maryland Web site.

Raising the money isn't hard, said Patricia Moore, the sister of a Special Olympics athlete and a fundraising volunteer.

"Usually, either somebody knows somebody who has a family member with a disability or they just think it's a good cause," Moore said.

State Police Trooper Andrew Smith said he joined the run just to support the cause, but was inspired by the athletes he met during the run.

As it turned out, the feeling was mutual.

"When my brother told me they were all cops, I didn't believe it," said Special Olympics athlete Greg Strother, 26, who was participating in the torch run for the first time. But he made a few friends.

"I had fun with the police officers," he said. "They were cool."

The Herald-Mail Articles