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Yuma, Imperial County law enforcement agencies participate in Law Enforcement Torch Run Relay for Special Olympics of Arizona

About 20 different law enforcement agencies ran in the relay to show support of local special olympians - 13 on your side's Vanessa Gongora reports

YUMA, Arizona (KYMA, KECY) - This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Law Enforcement Torch Run. The U.S. Marshalls and Yuma Police Department (YPD) organized this event to show support to the Special Olympics of Arizona and help raise funds for the Special Olympics Athletes of Yuma.

Unfortunately there wasn't an event the past couple of years due to COVID, so this year the event returned as a relay with each agency carrying and passing on the Flame of Hope.

The relay was about 1.5 miles for each agency. It began in San Luis at 5 a.m. and concluded at the Quartermaster Depot at approximately 10 a.m.

Mike Burnett, Director of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Arizona, attended and said today was exciting.

"Law enforcement comes out because they truly love and support Special Olympics and want to do something for the athletes and for them this is a really fun time to come out, have some comradery among their peers and do something really fantastic," Burnett said.

Burnett said the state summer games were held in the beginning of May in Glendale, Arizona and they had a wonderful turnout.

"We had athletes from all over the state come participate in a variety of activities from weightlifting to track and field to a number of different things so it was just a fantastic opportunity for them to get out, have some fun, have a lot of socialization and compete," Burnett said.

According to special olympicsarizona.org, 21,461 participating athletes are in Arizona.

This was the first year the Imperial County Sheriff's Office participated. Deputy Justin Benavidez was chosen to represent their agency and hold the torch.

"I'm very oriented within the community and when I heard about this run I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of and had to be a part of," said Benavidez.

Benavidez said he thanks the U.S. Marshall's and YPD for supporting an important event for the community.

"I was asked to do this and they told me a facet of this was to show the bravery and courage that law enforcement has but in reality, its these special olympians that have the courage and show us what courage is everyday bringing forth life's obstacles and how to overcome that. So in reality, we learned something today," Benavidez said.

The Yuma Police Department said they raised more than $35,000 since October of 2021 with successful fundraisers, such as the Scary & Safe Trick or Treat held at the Yuma Fair Grounds, Fuel of Dreams, Show you Care change your Hair and the sales of their K-9 stuffed animals. 

YPD Officer Christina Fernandez says she's proud her community came together to show support for the Special Olympians.

"The comradery I can't speak any higher about it. It was amazing. I mean everybody was just getting together, encouraging all the runners. We had the YCSO partner up with us, we had the kids over from the academy come. I think this really just shows and builds a foundation for our newer officers to show that we really are a community and we do support each other," Fernandez said.

Fernandez says this was her first time run and it was phenomenal.

"I really encourage anyone next year that if you guys can be out there with signs, just really encourage us. It was great to have the community when they drove by honking and getting us to keep moving. I mean I really can't thank the community enough for the support they showed us," Fernandez expressed.

Fernandez said she had an adrenaline high going and is looking forward to Yuma County continuing this tradition.

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Vanessa Gongora

Vanessa Gongora joined the KYMA News 11 team in 2021.

You can contact her with story ideas at vanessa.gongora@kecytv.com

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