As “Guardians of the Flame,” law enforcement, Special Olympic athletes and others carried the “Flame of Hope” from the Johnson City Municipal and Safety Building to East Tennessee State University’s Mini-Dome. They then lit the cauldron at ETSU to officially mark the beginning of the Summer Games for Tennessee’s Area 3, which includes competitors from Washington, Carter, Unicoi and Johnson counties.
Caroline Hood said her daughter Hannah was excited to participate in events such as the 50-meter dash.
“This will be her fifth year,” she said. “They allow children to ride in police cars over to the Mini-Dome (during the Torch Run), which is a big highlight for her. She loves police cars.”
Bill Regert said this was his second year participating in the Torch Run.
“It’s good to show a lot of support for the Special Olympics and our special needs community. In the past, after she served in the military, my wife worked as a special education teacher in Texas until we moved here,” he said. “So I gained a greater understanding of people in the community and getting to integrate with them. It’s important.”
Officer Brittany Eberhardt said the aim of the Torch Run was to raise awareness and funds for the annual Special Olympics.
“It’s really just bridging the gap in the community. We don’t have a lot of experience with special athletes outside of this event, so it’s important that, when we do have interaction, it’s positive,” she said. “This is just another way to have a positive interaction with them and let them know we are on their side.”
Funds were raised to send local Special Olympic athletes to the Summer Games. Boomtown, located on Spring Street, provided shirts for the event sold for $18 and $20 for sizes 2X and 3X.
“Everybody who bought a shirt sponsored. All the money from that is going to Area 3 athletes,” Eberhardt said.
Participants and sponsors in this year’s Torch Run included Underground Fitness, East Tennessee State University, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office, Johnson City EMS and others.