LINCOLN, Maine — Jay Hallett held the Special Olympics torch alternately in his left and right hands as he jogged along Route 2 on Friday, sweat pouring off his face as his long shuffling strides gobbled up ground.
It was a good moment for Hallett, for besides being dedicated to the Special Olympics, the 41-year-old Howland man, a Penobscot County deputy sheriff, was easily running seven miles, more than double the distance he typically jogs.
“Four years ago, I could not have done it,” Hallett said Friday as he stood inside the KeyBank branch on West Broadway, where the volunteers stopped for a free lunch offered by bank workers. “I weighed about 400 pounds then. Now I weigh about 215.
“I am in pretty good shape,” he added. “It’s not a cakewalk, but it’s not bad.”
More than a dozen local and state police, deputy sheriffs, firefighters, Maine Department of Corrections officers, game wardens, probation officers and courts personnel carried the torch or provided a bicycle, firetruck or police cruiser escort from Millinocket to the University of Maine campus in Orono on Friday as part of the 25th annual Maine Law Enforcement Torch Run.
The run and lighting of the torch at UMaine kicked off the Special Olympics on Friday night.
Millinocket Police Officer Gary Lakeman, Millinocket pastor the Rev. Ian Shearer and Maine State Game Wardens Bobby Johansen and Jim Davis, along with several Orono police officers, started the 70-mile run early Friday morning, Millinocket police said.
“It’s amazing to go to the games and see the joy we bring to them just for doing this little thing that we do,” said Chris Gardner, a detective sergeant with the University of Maine police in Orono, who helped organize the Penobscot County run. “It’s an excellent event and we get a lot of joy out of doing it. It’s really quite an honor.”
The Torch Run, which raises money for the Special Olympics, is dedicated this year to the late Robert C. Bell, a retired Bridgton police chief who died April 8, 2009, at Bridgton Hospital after a brief battle with melanoma. He was 72 and the founder of the first Maine torch run 25 years ago, Gardner said.
The run is part of several charity efforts that raise about $250,000 for the Special Olympics, Gardner said.
“A lot of the guys here are on their days off,” said Lincoln police Officer Patty McLaughlin, who organized the Lincoln contingent of firefighters, police, deputy sheriffs and court personnel. “They want to support a really good cause.”
Law enforcers will hold their next fundraiser, Fueling Dreams, at the Circle K convenience store and fuel station on West Broadway on June 20. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., volunteers will pump gas for customers, with 5 cents of every gallon sold going toward the Special Olympics, McLaughlin and Gardner said.
Anyone interested in helping the Special Olympics may mail contributions to the Special Olympics of Maine, 126 South Roberts Road, South Portland 04106. All contributions are tax-deductible.