Marines and Sailors assigned to the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) participated in the King George County Sheriff’s Department Law Enforcement Special Olympics Torch Run on June 5. The goal: raise money and awareness for Special Olympians, many of whom participated in the event or cheered on runners. The run marked the second year the King George County Sheriff’s Department supported the nationwide event.
King George Sheriff Steve Dempsey, welcomed guests and thanked participants. “I want to thank you for being a part of this great cause. I also want to thank Deputy Rod Shriver and his volunteers for today and all their fund-raising efforts, also for this great cause. I certainly want to encourage you to be safe today. Enjoy the run, especially at the end when we’ll be joining some of our Special Olympians at the King George Middle School track.”
Roy Zeidman, senior vice president of Special Olympics Virginia, praised CBIRF and all of the run participants. “The Law Enforcement Torch Run race funds an awareness for Special Olympics,” he said. “In communities like here in King George, you really see our programs in action. We have all these members of law enforcement and the military who are going to run as part of our torch run; at the end of the run, they’re all going to have an opportunity to interact and share some time with our Special Olympics athletes so we can learn how we have much more in common with each other than anything that separates us. Our core values at Special Olympics are respect, inclusion and unity. What [participants] are doing today is unifying the community with inclusion.”
Members of CBIRF have never shied away from a good physical training (PT) session, but supporting the event was about more than staying in shape. “We want to build our community and show our support,” said Gunnery Sgt. Rodney Barton.
King George Deputy Rod Shriver, a former Marine who served a tour with CBIRF, asked members of CBIRF to participate. “I reached out to my brothers and sisters, Navy and Marines, and said I need some help for a great cause,” he said. “We want to get the community more aware the Special Olympics and what the Special Olympics can do. They sent me more than 100 Marines and Sailors.”
Those Marines and Sailors made their presence known once the run kicked off. Along the three-mile course, from the new King George County Sheriff’s Office to King George Middle School, the CBIRF participants ran in formation and sang cadence, much to the delight of spectators.
Once the runners reached the school, they circled the track and were cheered on by King George Middle School students and shared pizza and snacks with Special Olympians.
“We guess there are twice as many people supporting us this year, which is phenomenal,” said Jim Garrett, director of Special Olympics Rappahannock Region, at the conclusion of the run. “It’s amazing how much effort the community turns out for these sort of things. The supporters from the Marine Corps have probably doubled in number. And we didn’t have as many sponsors last year.”
Garrett praised donors and participants and hoped the event would show the community what Special Olympians are capable of. “This is a way to connect with the community, to show them what we’re all about, what we do day in and day out, to show them what our athletes are all about and maybe get them to attend some of our competitions,” he said.
For Albert Morin, a contractor the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, the day was an encouraging one for him and his special needs son, Cody. Sports, such as swimming at the YMCA, are an important part of Cody’s life. “For him it’s really the physical activity with the Special Olympics because it he’s got a lot of energy,” he said.
Morin appreciated the way the community supports him and Cody, not just at the Law Enforcement Fun Run, but regularly. “I just love the support that King George County Sheriff’s Office is giving us, the support from [CBIRF] and the YMCA. Especially the support the YMCA gives us through the Special Olympics, all the special needs stuff that they do. The community is so supportive in our day-to-day activity, like when we go to restaurants. The waitresses and owners are all very nice to Cody.”
The run itself offered enjoyment for Cody. “He loves wind in his face,” said Morin. “We didn’t quite make the whole run and we had to get on the bus. He really loved riding on the bus. We went around the track in the stroller, going around and seeing the waving people, he just thought that was great. It was really nice to see the kids out here clapping for us. It was a pretty good day.”