Special Olympics Torch Run begins in Chula Vista

At the Chula Vista Police Department, a gathering of law enforcement officials from federal, state and local departments and agencies all over the county grew out of a tradition that began in Wichita, Kansas back in 1981: a torch relay featuring police officers to mark the Wichita Special Olympics. Now, there are law enforcement Special Olympics Torch Runs all over the country. But, you can bet the southern California relay leads the way; last year, southern California officers and agents raised more than $1.3 million to benefit the Special Olympics, including almost $80,000 contributed from San Diego.

“At the games, when we do our opening ceremonies, the officers line the track and high-five the athletes as they walk in and as they run in and it’s really quite spectacular,” said local Special Olympics director Karen Terra.

The local leg of the Torch Run has started in Chula Vista for the last 11 years and the law enforcement runners had quite a partner Tuesday morning, Special Olympics athlete Erik Weber.

“I carried the torch in to light the cauldron at the 2010 games. It’s a huge thrill.”

Erik is autistic, but his resume includes a Master’s Degree from San Diego State. Now, he’s enrolled in another school, but we’re going to keep that a secret for a little while longer while we talk to one of the law enforcement runners Robert Brown, the community resource manager at Donovan State Prison.

“We get sponsors, we pass the hat outreach, sponsor a runner, buy a t-shirt… basically, any way to generate money for these athletes.”

Tuesday’s run ended in the north county; Wednesday, it’s on to Camp Pendleton, and the torch handoff to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. The southern California Special Olympics Summer Games begin June 5th at USC. We’ve saved the best for last: early on, doctors told Erik’s parents he’d never be mentally older than 18 months and he should be institutionalized. Well Erik’s in an institution – Cal Western School of Law.

Categories: KUSI