“The Flame of Hope” shone brightly through the streets of San Fernando on Wednesday, July 23, as residents here were able to witnessed for themselves the fiery symbol of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.
The flame was escorted by several dozen law enforcement personnel from around the world, and members of the San Fernando Police Department — all part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg for the Special Olympics. The jogged for a mile through the downtown mall and east along San Fernando Road before finishing up at Recreation Park, where they were cheered on by onlookers and serenaded by the Mariachi Tesero de San Fernando.
San Fernando resident Yolanda Haro was among those celebrating the torch run.
“I think its is huge because it’s bringing awareness [of special needs children],” Haro said.”There is still a stigma, but with events like this it has brought awareness to our city. It’s huge for parents getting equal acceptance for their children.”
San Fernando was one of 127 cities the torch would pass through on its way to Los Angeles, traveling 4,648 miles in 12 days by three different routes. Running teams will included law enforcement personnel from Australia, Barbados, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the USA.
The Law Enforcement officers and Special Olympic athletes were selected by their respective Special Olympics programs to be one of the 126 Final Leg Team members based on their dedication and commitment to the Special Olympics movement.
The torch was carried into the Recreation Center’s community room by Special Olympics athlete Cody Pierce of Pittsburg, Kansas, and Ricardo Clayton, chief of Campus Police at the Meridian Public School District in Mississippi.
San Fernando Police Sgt. Irwin Rosenberg, master of ceremonies, noted about the Special Olympics, “these athletes take part in extraordinary world class events. They have intellectual challenges, but their disability is only that — a challenge. The word ‘cannot’ is not in their vocabulary. They are driven to succeed, and have the greatest heart and determination of any athlete.”
Clayton spoke movingly about how life changed for his daughter — a surviving twin with special needs — when she became involved with the games.
“The first event she went to was the Summer Games,” Clayton said. “As she was holding my wife’s hand, tears started rolling down her face. She said, ‘Look Mommy, there are more kids just like me.’ She was so happy that day because she got the chance to go out and participate. She had a chance to be included. She had a chance to make friends.
“Special Olympics helped her to smile again. Not a little smile, but a big smile. … I’m thankful for her life and my family. But I’m also thankful for Special Olympics, for providing an opportunity for so many and — selfishly — for providing an opportunity for my little girl.”
In addition to recognizing the runners, the San Fernando Police Officers Association presented a donation of $250 to officials of the Special Olympics.
The actual World Games begin this Saturday, July 25, in Los Angeles with the official opening ceremonies at the Coliseum. Over the next nine days, through Aug. 2, more than 6,500 athletes and another 2,000 coaches from around the world will compete in 25 different Olympics sports including swimming, track and field, judo, weight lifting, gymnastics, bowling, soccer, and volleyball. The athletes began arriving on Tuesday, July 21.
Nearly 400 of those athletes will represent the United States
The competition events are free and open to the public. Tickets for the opening ceremony are available for purchase at LA2015.org via Ticketmaster.
For more photos of the event visit: