Lees-McRae College Track Athletes and Coaches Carry Torch for Special Olympics

NEWLAND, N.C. - Several Lees-McRae College student athletes and a couple of coaches helped carry the torch for the 2009 Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics this past Tuesday and Wednesday in Avery and Watauga counties.

Lees-McRae used their track and field athletes to carry the torch from the town square in Newland to the sheriff's office in Boone on Wednesday with several members carrying the torch for over 18 miles. Coach Craig McPhail, along with student athletes Connor Gray, Jordan Gillespie, Michael Davis, Craig Simpkins, Cody Hodgins, Kathryn Smith, Danny Hogbin and Bobcat supporter Carl Clawson all volunteered their time and abilities for this event.

On Tuesday, Lees-McRae College men's basketball coach Scott Polsgrove ran the torch from the Mitchell-Avery line up Old Three Mile Road where local law officials picked up the torch.

"Having the opportunity to help our local law enforcement while supporting such a great cause is something we want to associate ourselves with each year," said Craig McPhail Director of Cross Country/Track & Field at Lees-McRae. "This is our second year doing this, and we always look forward to this. It is a great way for us to use our special talents to help others."

Over 85,000 police officers annually raise money for Special Olympics Programs through the Law Enforcement Torch Run®. The runs raised $34 million in 2008, making it the movement's largest grass-roots fundraiser and public relations vehicle. Torch Runs take place around the world and involve a broad cross-section of the law enforcement community. Last year, military police from Hawaii stationed in Iraq conducted a Torch Run in Tikrit, deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's home village.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run began in 1981 when Wichita, Kansas (USA), Police Chief Richard LaMunyon saw an urgent need to raise funds for and increase awareness of Special Olympics. The Torch Run was quickly adopted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), now recognized as the founding law enforcement organization of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. "What started in Kansas as a flicker of hope for Special Olympics has now become a roaring flame of stability for Special Olympics athletes worldwide," says LaMunyon.

At its most basic level, the Torch Run is an actual running event in which officers and athletes run the Flame of Hope™ to the Opening Ceremony of local Special Olympics competitions, state/provincial games, and National Summer or Winter Games. Every two years, law enforcement officers from around the world gather to carry the Flame of Hope in a Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg in honor of the Special Olympics World Summer or World Winter Games.

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