By Rob LeDonne
Most everyone knows that the Special Olympics take place every four years, drawing global attention and athletes from all over the world. However, the Special Olympics are an organization that holds events year-round, including a Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR).
The Law Enforcement Torch Run is an annual event where San Diego County law enforcement agencies carry the Special Olympics Torch through San Diego cities where it eventually reaches its final destination at the Summer Games in Long Beach. (More than 1,100 athletes from throughout Southern California will participate in the Summer Games on June 8 and 9 at Cal State Long Beach.)
The ceremonial lighting of the torch will begin on May 28 at 9:30 a.m. at the Chula Vista Police Department Memorial Wall. After the ceremony, officers will begin the first leg of the run that starts at 10:15 a.m. and continues through Del Mar until the torch is set to rest for the evening.
The final leg of the LETR will begin at 6:30 a.m. on May 29 and end with Camp Pendleton Marines running the torch through the base and handing it off to the Orange County Sherriff’s Department.
“It’s a countywide event that incorporates pretty much all law enforcement agencies throughout the area,” explained Kelcie Kopf, the development manager for Special Olympics of Southern California. “Various agencies take certain legs, from San Diego all the way up to Long Beach. One agency passes the torch to the next.”
The goal of the run is to raise awareness and funds for the Special Olympics, which provides sports programming for people with intellectual disabilities and, according to Kopf, is an important facet of community life.
“Anytime an organization takes an interest in their community, especially individuals in their community who are often marginalized, it strengthens the community as a whole,” said Kopf. “There’s really no downside to participating; it mainly shows residents that law enforcement is more than just parking tickets and drug busts.”
Agencies local and national alike (including the San Diego Police Department, the FBI, and the IRS) will all participate in the run, which kicks off at 9:30 a.m. in Chula Vista. The run will move through the Torrey Pines State Beach area and Del Mar around 3 p.m., where it will rest for the night. The next day begins at Camp Pendleton.
The race has its roots in Kansas, where it began decades ago and has grown since, branching out to different states across the country, including right here in California and in 48 nations; overall, 142,000 people volunteer their time to the race annually. As a result, it’s become the largest grassroots fundraiser for the Special Olympics all year. Kopf herself moved to the San Diego area from Texas, and starting working with the organization as “a way to give back to community, and it’s been life changing. There was trepidation at first before taking this job, but it’s just opened my eyes. Our athletes and families who we work with are amazing.”
Kopf said she has about 300 law enforcement participants signed up for the race so far, which is on par with recent years, and is still open to having people sign up right up until the day of the race. Says Kopf: “The whole event is a beautiful symbol of what the Special Olympics are all about.”
To donate, call the Special Olympics office at 619-283-6100 and pay by credit card or mail cash/check to the office: Special Olympics Southern California San Diego County, 10977 San Diego Mission Road, San Diego, CA 92108. Visit