Members of the San Fernando Police Department (SFPD) took a quiet run through the city streets on Wednesday, June 8, for an event that makes a joyful noise.
They carried the torch of the Special Olympics on a 1.1 mile route that began at O’Melveny Elementary School and finished up at the Rydell Dodge auto showroom in celebration of the Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC) summer games, which will take place June 11-12 at Cal State University, Long Beach.
Ten San Fernando police officers and staff members and five Los Angeles Unified School District Police officers surrounded SFPD Lt. Nichole Hanchett as she handed off the torch to officers from the LAPD Foothill division. They, in turn, began their leg of the torch run, which would finish near North Hollywood.
This was a more low-key torch run in the city from last year, which was held with great fanfare because the 2015 Special Olympics World Games were being hosted by the city of Los Angeles — with several sporting events, including soccer, taking place in Valley area venues.
But Wednesday’s run was the first time officers from this city actually carried the torch. Last year, the main torchbearers for the run in San Fernando were Special Olympics athlete Cory Pierce of Pittsburg, Kansas, and Ricardo Clayton, chief of campus police at the Meridian Public School District in Mississippi.
“This was the first time we participated…[with] an opportunity to carry the torch in any part of it. This was our first time with actual runners,” said SFPD Sgt. Irwin Rosenberg, who ran in the pack on Wednesday.
Rosenberg said that with the success of last year’s event, SFPD officials were hoping to continue participating. They were delighted at being asked by SOSC officials to run this year.
“A lot of police departments have been scheduled for years, and run the routes they’ve run year after year,” said SOSC spokeswoman Kim Villa. “This year we had the opportunity to include a couple of new teams and the City of San Fernando was one of them.”
Before the Wednesday run, the SFPD had raised an estimated $5,000 for the Special Olympics through various fundraisers.
“Law enforcement personnel from across the country come together to support and raise awareness about people with special needs,” Rosenberg said. “Last year police across the country raised almost $5 million for the Special Olympics.
“This means a lot to us in San Fernando because we get to do something that people in the community see as positive. We showing the community we’re not just here to keep the streets safe or enforce traffic. We’re out here to be part of the community.”
The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Southern California is the largest public awareness vehicle and grass-roots fundraiser as more than 3,500 officers in Southern California assist in carrying the “Flame of Hope” to the Opening Ceremonies, according to the SOSC website. This is the 30th year for the Law Enforcement Torch run, and a specially designed torch recognizing to police agencies, sheriff’s departments, and all law enforcement agencies was used. The design also highlights major attractions across Southern California, including the state flag, wine country, the San Diego Zoo, the Hollywood sign, and beaches.