M. Terry / SFVS

Paula Lucero (left) carries the Special Olympics torch as the San Fernando police and friends get ready to run through the City.

The morning clouds were starting to break on Wednesday, June 5, as a group of men and women runners — all wearing green shirts — jogged in two rows along Truman Boulevard. They were escorted by San Fernando Police Department (SFPD) and Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) vehicles.

The runners themselves were escorting a symbolic flame — the torch that would eventually light the Special Olympics of Southern California (SOSC) 2019 Summer Games Cauldron. The games take place at Cal State University Long Beach on June 8 and June 9.  

Members of San Fernando Police Department personnel were joined by Special Olympic athletes, Los Angeles School Police and state Department of Motor Vehicle Investigators for the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run. The event, according to the SOSC, is the largest public awareness vehicle and grassroots fundraiser with more than 3,500 officers in Southern California supporting acceptance and inclusion.

The SFPD team accepted the torch from the LAPD Mission Division running team, then covered a 2.6 mile route through the City of San Fernando, starting at O’Melveny Elementary School, and ending at the Rydell auto dealership, where it was passed on to a running team from the LAPD Foothill Division. That team would escort the torch for 5.5 miles before handing it off to a LAPD North Hollywood team.

“I’ve run it every year we’ve done it here in the City of San Fernando,” SFPD Lt. Nichole Hanchett said at the conclusion of the run. “It never gets old. It’s always so motivational and inspirational when we hear the stories of the [Special Olympics] athletes.

“It really gives you some perspective on your own life. When you want to give up and quit, say that ‘I can’t,’ it’s not the right attitude. You look at the attitude of all these special, wonderful athletes. They never say ‘I can’t.’”

Hanchett also praised the visible support for the runners from the community.

“It was an incredible show of support,” she said. “We had the (Morningside, O’Melveny) elementary school kids, and the San Fernando Middle School kids cheering us on. All of our mall [businesses] were out. Courthouse deputies, and Rydell…it was really an incredible show.” 

The torch, dubbed the “Flame of Hope,” is used to light the cauldron at the Special Olympics Southern California Summer Games, June 8-9, at Cal State University of Long Beach.

By the time it arrives in Long Beach, the torch will have traveled 1,500 miles and through 200 Southern California communities in May and June before the opening ceremonies.

DMV investigator Paula Lucero was one of the torch carriers during the run. Like Hanchett, it was Lucero’s fifth time participating in the event.

“It was a little heavier than I thought it would be,” Lucero said. “But with that heaviness, I felt the strength of all the people involved with Special Olympics. My niece (Mina Lucero) is involved with the Special Olympics as an athlete, so this means a lot to me.” 

Special Olympics Southern California supports 37,800 athletes with intellectual disabilities and their communities through sports, education and athletic health.

The San Fernando Police Department (SFPD) is seeking donations to help support Special Olympics athletic programs in Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley and Santa Clarita Tri-Valley.

All donations are tax deductible. For every $1 raised on behalf of the athletes, 90 cents goes directly to program costs. 

Those wishing to donate can visit the Special Olympics Santa Clarita & Tri-Valley website at http://fundraising.sosc.org/goto/sfpd.