Law Enforcement Torch Run continues charitable work


For the Madera Tribune

Madera Guardians of the Flame gather for the 2020 Special Olympics Northern California Law Enforcement Torch Run.

Despite the prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic, charities and fundraisers must go on. The people and organizations in need can’t be forgotten and Special Olympics Northern California (SONC) is no different.


The Law Enforcement Torch Run began in 1981 and is the largest fundraising movement for Special Olympics.


“Law Enforcement  is considered to be Guardians of the  Flame  of Hope for  Special Olympics  athletes.  Special Olympics  is a program that reaffirms our beliefs that with hope, love and dedication, we can see achievement and self-worth realized by any individual,” Heather Betts, executive assistant to R. Fisher, Jr. Warden, Valley State Prison, said. “Special Olympics helps define the brave participants of these programs as athletes, and not define them by their disabilities. Special Olympics strives to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people.


“Through the power of sports, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities discover new strengths and abilities as well as skills and friendships among their peers.”


For over 21,000 athletes in nearly 300 competitions annually, SONC (a non-profit organization) provides enrichment to the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities through sports, education, athlete health, training and competition programs.


It costs about $300 to send each athlete to compete in various Special Olympic sports and the average athlete will compete in up to three different sports. The athletes need assistance with funding and that’s where the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation staff from Valley State Prison (VSP) and Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) came in along with local Madera County law enforcement agencies.


The group created the Guardians of the Flame Team.


“We are committed to supporting SONC since we believe in their cause, and their ability to assist thousands of athletes demonstrates courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community,” Betts said.


“VSP and CCWF staff, local law enforcement agencies, as well as incarcerated individuals from both institutions, have worked together to fundraise for over 10 years for SONC, which has often raised thousands of dollars that go directly to SONC.”


This year, The Madera Guardians of the Flame have set a goal to raise $5,000 for this year’s LETR. 


And as of Nov. 13, the group has raised $1,500.


“We have reached out to our community and received tremendous support through donations for a silent auction,” Betts said.


A silent auction concluded on Nov. 20.


Despite the silent auction ending, community members still have a chance to donate to the athletes: https://specialolympics.donordrive.com/team/6998.


And although things were done differently due to COVID-19, the fundraiser still went on.


‘We held our tourch run on Nov 13 at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF). The event included an opening ceremony for the Law Enforcement Torch Run benefitting SONC where the Madera Guardians of the Flame Team members got together to raise awareness for Special Olympics,’ Betts said.


“The ceremony kicked off with VSP and CCWF Warden’s opening words and a display of the LETR Torch. In attendance were CCWF, Valley State Prison, California Highway Patrol, Madera County Sheriff’s Department, CCWF and VSP Investigative Services and K9 Unit, and Madera County Probation.”


Chowchilla Starbucks donated snacks and coffee for participants who were encouraged to also do a virtual run and submit their videos.


The Madera Guardians of the Flame Team overcame the challenges and till put on a worthwhile event and of course for a good cause. During these unprecedented times, it is even more important to think not only about those affected the most, but to act and make a difference.


Many non-profits and charities have taken a hard hit these past nine months in terms of lost funding, which has hindered their ability to provide the supplies and services to those in need in our communities.


The Special Olympics was a casualty as they were cut from the 2020-21 state budget. The group won’t have their main source of funding for distance education, activities and other programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.


“Funding will allow them to compete in tournaments, if competitions are allowed to take place, once it is safe to return to regular sporting activities.  Madera County Guardians of the Flame and Special Olympics Team is proud to offer training and competitions for over 50 local Special Olympics athletes,” Betts said.

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