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Officers run to raise Special Olympics awareness

June 03, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Police officers running through town Wednesday were not chasing bad guys, but rather showing their support for about 40 local athletes who will compete this weekend in the Maryland Special Olympics State Games at Towson University.

Eight Special Olympians and officers from the Maryland State Police, the Hagerstown Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff's Department made their way into Public Square at noon.

"It's to show our support, let them know we do care," Maryland State Police Sgt. Mike Fluharty said.

The first leg of the western portion of the Law Enforcement Torch Run started Wednesday morning in Hancock, according to Vicki Follett, who coaches Washington County Special Olympians and has been involved with the torch relay for about 10 years.

The eight athletes participating in Wednesday's relay ran for about a mile through Hagerstown, and some continued from the square for another mile or so, she said.

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Follett said she has been involved with Special Olympics since her 32-year-old son, Lee, who was born with disabilities, was 8 years old.

Special Olympics allows for a "level training field" and participants are able to go to meets just like high school athletes, Follett said.

The youngest area Special Olympian is 10 years old, and the oldest is a 65-year-old blind man, she said.

Law enforcement and correctional officers across the country carry the Special Olympics "Flame of Hope" through towns and communities in order to raise awareness of the Special Olympics movement and upcoming Summer Games.

About 20 local officers participated in Wednesday's run, event organizer John Ryder said.

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