Rim Country Special Olympics athletes and supporters gathered at Chapman Auto early Wednesday morning to participate in the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Torch runners Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper Seth Meeske and his brother Tim, a 30-year Special Olympics athlete, ran the torch in from Star Valley to the auto dealership where a crowd of cheering athletes, family members and local supporters waited with banners and balloons.
The group gathered behind the Special Olympics banner and walked from Chapman Auto south on the Beeline Highway to Western Village, escorted by law enforcement officers.
Those who were not able to walk the distance were taken by bus by Special Olympics supporters including Payson Care Center, Horizon Health and Wellness, Arizona Mentor, CPES, and GEST. There was also a bus from the high school.
The Payson Police Department, DPS, Gila County Sheriff’s Office, Payson Fire Department and Hellsgate Fire Department lent their support by bringing their trucks to the parade. Bystanders and passing traffic waved and cheered.
Seth organizes the Torch Run from Winslow to Payson while Karen Baltz, from the GCSO, helps organize it locally.
Seth’s brother Tim recently competed in a track and field meet in Sedona. He was participating in the 400-meter run and a young woman behind him fell. He stopped, losing his place in the race, turned around and helped her up. They arrived at the finish line together. Tim was awarded the bronze medal for his sportsmanship.
He was also voted 2018’s Most Inspirational Special Olympics Athlete of the Year.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run began in 1981 in Wichita, Kan. It is now a worldwide event with 76,000 locations participating to raise money for Special Olympics.
“Special Olympics reaches 5 million athletes worldwide,” said Lucy Karrys, a track and field chaperone with the local Special Olympics group. “Law enforcement raised approximately $1.5 million in Arizona this year, and half a billion dollars worldwide since 1981. Hats off to law enforcement.”
The “Flame of Hope” torch is run into the opening ceremonies of local, state, national, regional and world games.
“From Payson, the runners ran and biked the torch down to Mount Ord, then drove part of the way down Highway 87 to Glendale,” said Karrys.
The Special Olympics Arizona Summer Games are May 2 through 4 in Glendale.
Rim Country Special Olympics athletes departed for Glendale Thursday morning to compete in 50-, 100- and 400-meter races, 100- and 400-meter race walks and a 1,500-meter run.
“Only three people in the whole state do a 1,500-meter run,” said Karrys, “and two are from Payson, David Frohm and Adriana Barnes.”
Each athlete participates in three events.
The Glendale meet will be live streamed on the Special Olympics Arizona Facebook page.
Rim Country’s Special Olympics area director is Becky Derwort. For more information, call 928-474-9142 or 928-978-3893.