On March 5, 2017 the Flame of Hope was lit in Greece. It was then secured in two minors lamps and was protected by Greek law enforcement torch runners. The minors lamps were flown to Austria where they were handed over to the 131 member Final Leg Team.
I was on Final Leg Team #5. Our team consisted of members from Austria, Canada, Sylvania and the United States. Our mission was to carry the Flame of hope throughout the 9 Austrian States and create awareness and excitement for the 2017 Special Olympics World games.
My team met on March 8, we quickly formed a bond of friendship as we all had a common goal to support others for inclusion & acceptance. For the next 12 days our team was always together.
Our typical day we would be up at 5am to get ready and board a bus. We were transported to the town where we began running. The officer who was speaking in that town’s ceremony team would lead the way into the town. Each member of their team would take turns carrying the torch “The Flame of Hope” with an athlete.
We would always run into a town square where there would be a stage set up for a ceremony. The crowds consisted of the children from the local school, Special Olympics’ athletes from that town and town residents.
The town’s mayor would speak first about the Special Olympics World Game. Next the local police chief would speak about the Law Enforcement Torch Run worldwide efforts and its support towards Special Olympics. He would also speak about how all members of society should be included not excluded on a daily bases.
Once they completed their speeches a Torch Run athlete would speak about how Special Olympics changed their lives. Then a Torch Run officer would speak about why they got involved in the Torch Run and how it has changed them. After the speeches were done members of the town would put on a 5 to 10 min show. We would then line up and run out of the town to the bus. We did this 4 to 5 times a day through the entire country.
This was such an incredible experience with memories that will last a lifetime.
Det. Eric Leclerc
Cranston Police Department