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Police leading Torch Run in Orillia this weekend to help Special Olympics Ontario

After a challenging period for law enforcement in this country, police are gathering in the sunshine city this weekend to help a cause near and dear to their hearts.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is set to take place on Sunday. Police from across the province will be participating, along with the general public, to help bring in critical funds for Special Olympics Ontario.

"It can be a tough profession. Obviously, over the last few weeks, we've seen that," says Derek Spence, a retired police officer who is chairing this year's run. "But being involved with these athletes on a weekend like this to celebrate with them is something that balances the officers out and gives them something to look forward to, and they just love the interaction with the athletes."

In honour of the run's 35th anniversary, this year's event is turning into a weekend full of activities. It began Friday with a celebration gala. It will continue on Saturday, where Special Olympians will be matched with police in games of bocce ball and basketball before culminating with the run on Sunday.

"They care because they see athletes like myself and all around the world to do what they love and smile and compete and get the enjoyment out of it," says Stephen Graham, a Special Olympic athlete of more than 20 years.

The torch run is a global event that was first brought to Canada by Lorne White back in 1987. The year prior, White had seen its success while attending a conference of chiefs of police from across the world in the United States. In an effort to help improve relations with the community, White sought and was granted approval to bring it north of the border.

"One thing with being involved with Special Olympics is the athletes absolutely love us," says White. "Every time we've ever gone into a games, their smiles and their reception and the glow on their faces, law enforcement just perks right up."

Since its inaugural run, the event has brought in 40 million dollars for Special Olympics Ontario. OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique is a frequent participant, saying the athletes have taught him the importance of giving back to the community.

"Everybody needs somebody to look up to, everybody needs somebody to aspire towards who sets an example, and for police officers, those are special Olympians," says Carrique. "These are brave athletes that surpass all challenges that are put before them; they do it with a positive attitude, and it's a way for us to be inspired while giving back and providing them with opportunities that we can help out with, which is a fantastic thing to do."

For more information on the run and to find out how to participate, click here Top Stories

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