Torch Run: QC officers support Special Olympics

A local law enforcement officer holds the torch at the beginning of the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics held Monday, May 20, at the Bettendorf Police Department. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

Orlando Rodriguez is getting ready for some new adventures this month.

On Monday morning, May 20, one of those adventures centered on showing support for the Special Olympics by running more than six miles through parts of the Iowa Quad Cities.

“I want to be out here showing my support for the cause. … I want to help,” Mr. Rodriguez said moments before he started the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.

More than 25 local law enforcement officers and their friends gathered outside the Bettendorf Fire Department to also show support for the Special Olympics by running a 6.3-mile course that started at the Bettendorf Police Station. 

The runners headed east on State Street, turned north onto 18th Street, connected with the bike path at Parkway Drive, took that path into Davenport, and ended at Rookies Sports Bar at 2818 N. Brady St., Davenport.

“There are a few big hills along the course, but once we get past the bike path, it flattens out,” said Davenport Police Sgt. Andrew Harris, one of the runners and organizers of Quad Cities torch run event.

He added the run is a “very meaningful” way to support the Special Olympics and its good work.

During Monday’s run, many other law enforcement officers gathered in the Bettendorf Police Department parking lot to support the Special Olympics organization. Many of them were wearing red T-shirts with the logo LETRLaw Enforcement Torch Run – on the front.

A former Special Olympics athlete who was attending the event said he was happy to see so many people taking part.

“It’s an excellent form of support. … This gives you a boost of energy to keep going,” said Rolla Lucas, shortly before the run.

Mr. Lucas, who did not run on Monday because of an injury, has participated in many Special Olympics events since his junior high school days in 1983. Some of those events have included basketball, volleyball, soccer and many other sports.

As the officers lined up for the run, Mr. Lucas told the crowd he was grateful for their participation and to have a good, safe run.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run began in Iowa in 1987 and continues to grow every year. In 2019, it involved more than 1,000 law enforcement officers and raised more than $1.2 million for Special Olympics Iowa Athletes. The Bettendorf Police Department has participated for more than 30 years.

The annual Torch Run and its various fundraising projects – Tip-a-Cop, Cop on Rooftop and others – have two goals: to raise money and create awareness for the Special Olympics athletes who participate.

One of the local runners helping with those goals on Monday was Mr. Rodriguez, of Davenport. A supervisor with the Iowa Department of Corrections, he has been involved in the torch run for the past couple of years. But this event is just one of his big adventures in the near future. Beginning Tuesday, May 28, the 40-year-old man will be attending the 19-week police academy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He will be going to the academy as part of his duties with the Department of Corrections.

He realizes that at 40 years old, he might be the oldest police cadet in his upcoming class.

“I’m nervous, but also excited. … I have no doubt that I will be outworking some of the 20-year-olds in the class,” he added.

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