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‘A symbolic flame of hope’: Bemidji hosts Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics

A group of law enforcement officers, Special Olympics participants and community members gathered at Paul Bunyan park on Monday for Bemidji’s leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Minnesota.

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Participants pose for a group photo before Bemidji's Law Enforcement Torch Run on Monday, June 20, 2022, at Paul Bunyan Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — A group of law enforcement officers, Special Olympics participants and community members gathered at Paul Bunyan Park on Monday, June 20, for Bemidji’s leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Minnesota.

The run raises funds for Special Olympics Minnesota programs and is held throughout the state leading up to the organization’s Summer Games.

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Attendees walk along Paul Bunyan Drive on Monday, June 20, 2022, during Bemidji's Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Emma Fiedler, special event coordinator with Special Olympics Minnesota, described the event as a grassroots fundraiser for the organization.

“Law enforcement across the state do fundraisers, bringing awareness to the Special Olympics athletes who are people with intellectual disabilities,” Fiedler said about the event.

Bemidji’s event began at Paul Bunyan Park with a walking portion, made up of law enforcement officers, Special Olympics participants and community members. A handful of participants went on to complete Bemidji’s leg of the run, ending in Pequot Lakes.

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“There are five legs across the state, and Bemidji is one of the starts,” Fiedler explained. “We pass the torch, which is a symbolic flame of hope for the athletes, through greater Minnesota and all five routes accumulate in the cities for the opening ceremonies of our Summer Games.”

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Attendees listen to an overview of the route before Bemidji's Law Enforcement Torch Run on Monday, June 20, 2022, at Paul Bunyan Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Attendees paid $20 for participation and an event shirt, and the money raised will go toward Special Olympics Minnesota programs.

“They disperse it between our health programs and our delegations, like our sports teams,” Fiedler said. “It’s a fundraiser, but it’s really an awareness piece.”

The Law Enforcement Torch Run began in 1981 in Kansas, with the purpose of encouraging law enforcement to be active in the community and support Special Olympics Kansas.

According to specialolympics.org, the event has grown into a nationwide program throughout the years and is now considered “the movement's largest public awareness and fundraising group for Special Olympics.”

Since its start, the Law Enforcement Torch Run has raised over $600 million for Special Olympics programs.

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Participants of Bemidji's Law Enforcement Torch Run make their way along Paul Bunyan Drive on Monday, June 20, 2022.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Participants listen to a speaker before Bemidji's Law Enforcement Torch Run on Monday, June 20, 2022, at Paul Bunyan Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Madelyn Haasken is the multimedia editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a 2020 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Mass Communication, with minors in writing and design. In her free time, she likes watching hockey, doing crossword puzzles and being outside.
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