CULLMAN – A celebration will be coming on April 14 that law enforcement officials look forward to all year. It is a day of hope, encouragement and highlighting the achievements of Special Olympic athletes. It is nationally known as the Torch Run, and local deputies, officers and even state troopers will be participating again this year.
“I began my law enforcement career in 1991 with the Oneonta Police Department and my first contact with the Torch Run and Special Olympics was in 1992,” said Deputy Rex Sorrow. “My chief at Oneonta Police Department asked if I would attend a Torch Run Conference in Montgomery and be the coordinator of the Torch Run for Oneonta and Blount County. I jumped at the opportunity with excitement and enthusiasm even though I wasn't real familiar with the Torch Run or Special Olympics. When I came to work for the Cullman County Sheriff's Office in 2008 I wanted to revive the Torch Run in this area and get actively involved with Special Olympics again.”
Sorrow was able to revive the run in 2010 with full support of former Sheriff Tyler Roden. Two separate runs are now organized at the local and state level. The local run begins at the courthouse and ends at Oliver Woodard Stadium on the campus of Cullman High School, which is where the annual Cullman Special Olympics is held. Law enforcement run the torch into the stadium and the torch is handed off to an athlete, who then runs the track once to open the games.
There are so many athletes that can't walk or run, but they have the courage and commitment to participate in these games. I think it's the least we can do as able bodied individuals to show support and bring attention to their special day.” – Deputy Rex Sorrow
The state level begins with a 2 mile run in Huntsville where officers will then caravan to Athens. This process of running and caravanning is repeated through Decatur, Cullman, Birmingham, Pelham, Montgomery and finally Troy where the state games are held.
“All law enforcement are encouraged to participate from city, county and state,” Sorrow said. “We have a great group of guys and gals working in law enforcement in Cullman County. We have participation from Hanceville PD, Wallace State PD, Cullman PD, state troopers and Cullman County SO.”
It is an important work that local law enforcement do, for which they spend many hours preparing and raising money.
“The law enforcement Torch Run was designed as a fundraising and awareness vehicle,” Sorrow said. “An event that we will be promoting for April 24 and 25 is our annual "Cops On Top" event at Walmart. This is where our local law enforcement gets together with athletes and collects donations. It is one of our biggest fundraisers of the year. We try to bring patrol units, helicopters, and other unusual equipment to the event to attract the community to our event. We will be having a Polar Plunge the 31st of this month at Oak Mountain State Park to raise funds and we also do our t-shirt sales each year.”
The event can be life changing for many of these officers, and certainly the athletes who participate.
“I get so excited and it also humbles me to the point of realizing how blessed I am that God has given me good health,” Sorrow said. “When I get the opportunity to run, I can't help but look up and thank God for my good health and the ability to move and breathe. There are so many athletes that can't walk or run, but they have the courage and commitment to participate in these games. I think it's the least we can do as able bodied individuals to show support and bring attention to their special day.”