Hundreds of law enforcement officers, athletes from the Special Olympics and their supporters gathered at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand Wednesday night to attend the kickoff ceremony for the 2018 Delaware Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics of Delaware.
This year marks Delaware’s 32nd anniversary of the Law Enforcement Torch Run which involves more than 500 officers from every law enforcement agency in the state. Organizers say law enforcement has raised more than $7 million for Special Olympics and they expect to raise more than $755,000 this year. As guardians of the flame, law enforcement agencies continue to raise awareness and respect for persons with intellectual disabilities.
Starting Wednesday night and continuing for Thursday and Friday, officers will relay-run the Flame of Hope across Delaware to the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics of Delaware Summer Games which will be held on Friday and Saturday at the University of Delaware. More than 1000 athletes and unified partners will compete in swimming, bocce, track and field, power-lifting, softball and tennis.
The prelude to the Summer Games began with the official departure of the Flame of Hope from the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand. The flame was carried Wednesday night to Troop 7 for the night. On Thursday, the Torch Run continues in three parallel runs through Sussex County starting in Lewes, Georgetown and Delmar.
The flames will meet in Harrington and then travel as one to Dover for a ceremony at Legislative Hall before continuing through Smyrna and Odessa. After traveling for 160 miles, the Flame of Hope will be presented at the opening ceremony for the Summer Games on Friday afternoon.
Leading the motorcycles and carrying the Flame to the bandstand was Trooper First-Class Andrew Shaub. Carrying the torch for the first mile out of Rehoboth Beach was Susan Shea, whose husband, Cpl. Chris Shea of the Delaware State Police, was killed in the line of duty 13 years ago. The first mile of the Torch Run was dedicated to his memory.
Attending the Wednesday kickoff was Aaron Olicker, a City of Newark police officer, on his sixth year in the torch run, with his best buddy, Jonathan Stoklosa, who is a boxer, swimmer and weightlifter. “He holds a lot of world records and he is an inspiration to me and everybody who meets him,” Officer Olicker said.
Stoklosa has been a Special Olympian for years and holds a lot of world records. “He is just a great guy! We love coming down every year and seeing the citizens come out and support a great cause, the Torch Run, Special Olympics, law enforcement. It’s just a great partnership and we love doing it every year,” Olicker said.
Organizers say this event would not be possible without sponsors like Nicola Pizza. “We have been involved in this for years,” says Kelly Munyan of Nicola Pizza. “We are the sponsors of the torch run kickoff. We love our law enforcement and support them as well as they support us and do a wonderful job here in our community,” she said. “The athletes that are competing in the games are just wonderful and we love being part of it,” she added.