Ohio law enforcement to participate in torch run for Special Olympics

The southwest Ohio leg of the 2011 Ohio Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics begins on Wednesday.

The run began June 14 in Toledo, Ohio and will continue through June 24.

The Ohio Law Enforcement Torch Run is the single largest grassroots fund-raising program for Special Olympics Ohio and its more than 23,000 participating athletes.

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Ohio Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Ohio. Twenty-five years ago a few dozen officers ran two routes from Cincinnati and Toledo to Columbus for the Opening Ceremonies of Special Olympics Ohio's State Summer Games. This year over 2,000 officers will participate in one of six main legs of one of several satellite community legs planned throughout the state.

"We are very proud of the evolution of the Law Enforcement Torch Run program in Ohio," stated Paige Ludwig, Marketing & Development Director for Special Olympics Ohio.  "The program continues to grow each year with more law enforcement officers and agencies getting involved."

The Torch Run is a series of relays in which officials representing all facets of law enforcement run or bicycle the "Flame of Hope" more than 1,000 miles and through more than 150 Ohio communities, raising awareness and generating funds for Special Olympics.

All routes eventually converge Friday, June 24, in Columbus for a dramatic and inspirational entrance into the Opening Ceremonies of the 2011 Special Olympics State Summer Games, at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of The Ohio State University. There, more than 2,600 Special Olympics athletes receive the "Flame of Hope" from the law enforcement officials and light a stadium cauldron to officially signify the opening of the Games.

The Southwest Ohio leg begins Wednesday, June 22, in Cincinnati. From there, and on the same day, the Southwest Ohio leg travels through Springdale to West Chester. On Thursday, June 23, the Southwest Ohio leg covers Hamilton, Middletown, Franklin, Miami Township, Centerville, Dayton, Xenia and Springfield. On Friday, June 24, the Southwest Ohio leg leaves Springfield and passes through London, West Jefferson and Hilliard on its way to Columbus.

Along the routes, the general public is encouraged to come out and shows its support for the "Flame of Hope," the officers and athletes involved, and the Special Olympics movement.

Special Olympics Ohio provides year-round sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy as they participate in the sharing of gifts and friendship with their own families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

For more information on Special Olympics Ohio, the 2011 State Summer Games or the Law Enforcement Torch Run, please visit Special Olympics Ohio at www.sooh.org.

 Copyright 2011 FOX19. All Rights Reserved.