FORT KENT, Maine — Officers from throughout Aroostook County and the state are training and working to raise money for Special Olympics Maine as they gear up for the 26th annual Maine Law Enforcement Torch Run.
More than 600 law enforcement officers will run across the state as part of the event, which will take place June 8-11, to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics Maine.
While participants typically need just a day to run the torch through their part of the state, it will take runners two days to get the flame through Aroostook County because of its size, according to Lisa Bird, spokeswoman for Special Olympics Maine.
Bird said Wednesday that Sgt. Joey Seeley of the Presque Isle Police Department and Detective Carolyn Crandall of the Houlton Police Department are coordinating the torch run in The County. Officers do a wealth of things to raise money for the torch run, including getting pledges from family, friends and colleagues, conducting fundraising dinners, and even shaving their heads for a certain amount of money.
The torch run was started in 1981 in Wichita, Kansas, by Police Chief Richard LaMunyon. After three years of successful runs, LaMunyon took his idea to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which adopted and still sponsors the event. In 1984, the torch run was brought to Maine by then Chief Robert Bell of the Bridgton Police Department. Bell died last month, and the Bridgton Leg of the run will be dedicated to him. Officers will wear special T-shirts in his memory.
Today the torch run is held in all 50 states and more than 100 countries.
“This is one of our largest fundraisers,” Bird said Wednesday. “Last year the run raised more than $200,000 for this organization, and we are hoping for even more this year.”
Bird admitted that the downturn in the economy has affected fundraising, with donations dipping from the past few years.
“We know that everyone out there is struggling, but this is such an important event and we are optimistic that people will give what they can to this important event,” she said.
To kick off the run, officers across the state will be pumping gas and washing windshields at more than 40 Circle K and Irving locations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The Irving Oil Co. will be donating 5 cents from every gallon of gas to Special Olympics Maine. Officers also will be collecting donations for the organization during the event.
Officers taking part in the torch run from southern Maine will begin in Berwick at 6:30 a.m. June 8 and will run the torch to Kittery. On Wednesday, the torch then will make its way to Brunswick from several different legs. Aroostook County officers will be running a torch through The County on Wednesday and Thursday, according to Bird.
Crandall said Wednesday that officers from southern Aroostook who are taking part in the event will run the torch from the Blue Moose Restaurant in Monticello to the Houlton Police Department on June 10. A barbecue will be held at the Houlton Police Department after the run.
Runners from all legs will culminate at the University of Maine Orono on June 11 for a parade and opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics State Summer Games, which will begin at 6 p.m.