The Farmington leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run is part of a 1,600-mile run across the state that culminates with the Special Olympics New Mexico Summer Games in Albuquerque from May 31 to June 2.
“Fundraising comes partially from runners’ registration, T-shirt sales and from business sponsors along the route,” said Jenny Dennis, a community service officer with the Farmington Police Department.
The 6.8-mile route took participants from the Wells Fargo branch on Broadway Avenue near downtown to the Wells Fargo at the Animas Valley Mall, she said.
The Summer Games are another important opportunity for Special Olympics athletes to compete together, she said.
“It’s an opportunity for them to compete in their specific sport,” Dennis said. “These athletes have gotten to know each other over the years. The most important thing is to compete, for them to be able to get out. All they want is to live their lives just like everyone else.”
Dennis has assisted and organized the Law Enforcement Torch Run in Farmington for 13 years.
“We’ve become friends and family,” she said.
Randy Mascorella, executive director for Special Olympics New Mexico, said she has seen the Law Enforcement Torch Run grow significantly.
“I think it even goes bigger than (this state),” Mascorella said. “It’s an international run.”
In 1995, the torch run raised about $9,000 statewide, she said.
“Last year we raised more than $300,000,” Mascorella said.
About half of the funds go directly toward putting on the games and organization-wide operations, she said, but the other half goes right back into the individual communities.
“It’s to support the Special Olympics teams themselves,” Mascorella said. “That means hotel rooms, buses, meals, uniforms ... In my opinion, when anything goes back on the local level, it really gives the chance for growth.”
Mascorella praised the work of Dennis and her colleagues at the Farmington Police Department.
“We just are blessed by those girls up there for the work they do all year long,” she said.
But the real reward is helping the Special Olympians and watching them grow, Mascorella said.
“To be able to articulate the gratitude on behalf of the athletes and their families, it’s hard to do that,” she said.
Greg Yee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4606. Follow him on Twitter @GYeeDT.