On Friday (February 8), the Special Olympics Flame of Hope will be making a pitstop at Cochrane High School to build awareness and excitement for this weekend's (February 8-10) Special Olympics Alberta Winter Games before it will light up the cauldron at Opening Ceremonies that evening.
Cochrane High School is one of seven stops included in the Torch Run Final Leg which will provide students with an opportunity to celebrate the great work of Special Olympics Alberta, the athletes, and also the success of the Cochrane High Unified Team.
Sergeant Katrina O'Reilly, says the Final Leg is a salute to all the incredible athletes competing and is a real honour for participating Law Enforcement Officers who will take part in this year's Alberta Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR).
The torch which is expected to arrive at Cochrane High School at 11:30 am will see participating officers do some loops around the school and through the gym while giving the opportunity for students to meet some of the Special Olympics athletes. "The school runs may have to be cut a little short on the outside but we will be bringing the Law Enforcement Flame of Hope into the school where we will be able to raise some excitement."
Law Enforcement Officers from all over the province raise money annually by participating in a variety of initiatives such as the 'Polar Plunge', 'Cops and Crepes', and 'Free Our Finest' to help fund local programs. In 2017, Sgt. O'Reilly, says $627,000 was raised across the province. "It was pretty tremendous fundraising by our officers across the province but we hope to improve that every year and add some new events. The awareness that we're creating as a result of the Winter Games being held in Calgary this year will hopefully help with that."
The partnership between Law Enforcement Officers and the Special Olympics has been ongoing for a number of years and the officers entrusted to care for the torch symbolizes the courage and celebration of diversity that the Special Olympics represents. The Alberta schools chose to receive the torch this year, were selected purposely, says O'Reilly. "They have been participating in Unified Sports for some time and they have really demonstrated an ability to include people of all abilities in their sports programs. Us bringing the torch to their school is pretty special for them and it is certainly very special for us."
On an international level, the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics is the largest international grassroots fundraiser and awareness campaign for Special Olympics with more than 85,000 law enforcement officers from 10 Canadian provinces and 3 territories, the 50 United States, and 46 countries internationally forming the worldwide movement for Special Olympics. In Alberta alone, 18 agencies in 117 communities contribute to LETR efforts annually, not only with events but as Guardians of the Flame.
The Special Olympics Flame of Hope will be lead into the Opening Ceremonies at the Winsport International Arena at 7 pm by two Special Olympics Alberta athletes, Calgary Police Service Constable Cindy Klassen (a torch run volunteer and a six-time Olympic medalist), as well as a team of 65 LETR officers who will help deliver the torch to the cauldron.