GEORGETOWN — The torch representing Delaware law enforcement’s support continues to burn for Special Olympics Delaware and the approximately 4,200 athletes it serves.
On Thursday morning, some 500 local and state police officers statewide stepped off for the 35th annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics — a modified version of its traditional three-day event. It included two legs that met at Legislative Mall in Dover later that afternoon.
The early leg left The Circle in Georgetown at 7:30 a.m. Officers from Georgetown, Millsboro, Milton, Milford and Delaware State Police troops 4, 5 and 7 were among those who logged various portions of the northbound route.
Another leg left Middletown around 9:50 a.m.
For Millsboro Police Department Sgt. Barry Wheatley, it marked an emotional farewell. He will be retiring soon, having participated in about a dozen Law Enforcement Torch Runs and serving as the coordinator of the southern portion this year.
“My last one,” said Sgt. Wheatley, as he and other officers geared up for the start on The Circle.
The sergeant will be passing the coordination duties to Milford Senior Cpl. Tim Maloney, who has competed in all but one event since graduating from the police academy in 2011.
“I missed one Torch Run for an injury,” said Cpl. Maloney. “Next year, I take over Barry’s position as the central leg coordinator.”
In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Law Enforcement Torch Run was staged virtually, although some officers did take to the pavement on their own.
“They did a virtual run,” Sgt. Wheatley said. “Agencies could do independent runs. We did one in town, several others. This year, they left it up to the agencies. Whereas the western leg and eastern leg aren’t running, some of those agencies did an independent run."
One of the agencies that took part independently was the Seaford Police Department.
“There was kind of three options this year," Sgt. Wheatley said. "You could still participate virtually, as well as be a supporter and run on your own, independent agency runs and then back to the feet-on-the-street runs,” he said.
This year’s modified event was coined “Stronger Together Torch Run,” inviting members of law enforcement and the community at large to come together to light the way for acceptance and inclusion.
The runs, both virtual and in person, lead up to this year’s Special Olympics Delaware Summer Games, taking place Friday and Saturday throughout Kent County.
In its history, Delaware Law Enforcement for Special Olympics has raised more than $9.25 million to support Special Olympics Delaware’s year-round program of quality sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities and/or cognitive delays.
A family of over 5,000 volunteers makes this program possible for the thousands of athletes who compete.
Cpl. Maloney said he and other officers are happy to support such a worthy cause.
“Yes, absolutely,” he said.