Grand Avenue was briefly blocked Thursday evening as law enforcement officers brought the Flame of Hope to the Opening Ceremonies of the Special Olympics of Wyoming's Summer Games in Laramie. The last leg of a 16-leg journey, the torch was carried by various city, county and regional law enforcement officers as they ran it across town.
As with the Special Olympics, the Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics is an international event, and University of Wyoming Police Department Chief Michael Samp said the state’s law enforcement officers have been involved with the Wyoming run for decades. He added he’s been assisting with the event for “almost 20 years” himself.
“It’s really a way for law enforcement to help bring attention to a population that can benefit from our support, frankly,” Samp said. “The message of inclusion and acceptance for those with intellectual disabilities is been one of those topics that law enforcement has really been grabbing ahold of internationally ever since Special Olympics started.”
A collaborative event, Samp said 20-25 law enforcement officers from as many as 10 organizations will run together for Laramie’s portion of the route.
“That includes, certainly, all of our local partners, with the Laramie Police Department, Albany County Sheriff’s (Office), Wyoming Highway Patrol, Wyoming Game and Fish,” Samp said, “but also Cheyenne (Police Department’s) coming over, typically the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office (comes). Douglas Police Department, Casper (Police Department), Rock Springs (Police Department) are all going to be here to assist.”
The Special Olympics is about 50 years old, and Samp said the LETR is about 40 years old. Laramie has hosted the Summer Games almost every year for the past two decades, and Samp added Laramie has a rich history with the state’s LETR as well, especially LPD Chief Dale Stalder, who was recently inducted into Wyoming’s LETR Hall of Fame.
“Chief Stalder actually was one of the first torch runners in the state of Wyoming shortly after the Torch Run began in the United States,” Samp said.
The LETR ends at the Summer Games Opening Ceremonies, where it is presented to the athletes and used to signal the start of the Summer Games. Samp said as many as 800 Special Olympics athletes are participating in this year’s games, not to mention the coaches, volunteers and families in town for the weekend for the event as well.
“We encourage folks if they have time to get out and support the athletes … and take advantage of the opportunity to interact with our athletes as they come across the state to join us here in Laramie,” Samp said.
Athletes will be competing in events in venues all over town, with some events starting Thursday and the closing events on Saturday. Aquatics, basketball, powerlifting and track and field are the five main athletic competition categories.
For the complete schedule of events and locations, go to specialolympicswy.org