County celebrates torch run

By Jimmy Potts, Record Managing Editor
Posted 11/7/19

Various police departments across Warren County unified for a cause last Wednesday as they participated for the seventh year in the Special Olympics Torch Run. The run culminated efforts in raising …

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County celebrates torch run

Various police departments across Warren County unified for a cause last Wednesday as they participated for the seventh year in the Special Olympics Torch Run.The run culminated efforts in raising funds for special needs athletes.Warrenton Police Department Sgt. Chase Ledbetter finished the final leg of the run as storm clouds loomed overhead, but the rain held off until after the ceremony outside the Warrenton police station.“It was fantastic just being out there with the guys and supporting the event,” Ledbetter said.Participants included law enforcement officers and sheriff’s deputies from Warrenton, Truesdale, Wright City and the Warren County Sheriff’s Department. Despite coming from different departments, Ledbetter said they all came together to support a great cause while enduring a 6-mile trek.“We got together, showed teamwork and brought a lot of attention to Special Olympics,” he said. “I don’t run 6 miles a lot. I run 3 to 4 miles a couple times a week, but never that far. It was a little rough today.”Warrenton Police Chief Greg Houdyshell said he has been involved in Special Olympics since the beginning of his law enforcement career, spending more than 30 years supporting the program.Houdyshell said the torch run began when a police chief from Herculaneum approached him about having a Special Olympics Torch Run and he immediately jumped at the opportunity.“It just seemed like the thing to do. Seven years later, we haven’t missed a beat,” Houdyshell said. “To me, it’s not so much about seeing what they (participating officers) are feeling, but seeing the faces of the athletes who are benefiting from our officers being out there.“They are all doing it for the right reason. They love seeing great things happen for them,” he added. “I’m totally elated. We have been lucky every year with weather. Last year, it rained the morning before the run and we thought it was going to rain throughout the entire run and just before the run it stopped and we had great weather. Today, it held off and was just to the east of us. We could not ask for anything more. It was a perfect day for a run.”Despite tough economic times, Houdyshell said Warren County’s support of Special Olympics increases year after year thanks to the support of residents and local law enforcement.“Our mission here, all of the guys, all of the runners, is really just to create awareness and try and do a little extra fundraising,” he said. “We had our best year last year in Warrenton. We raised a little over $13,000, but we’re a long way away from our goal. There are almost 70 athletes in Warren County, and with about $500 per athlete, our goal is really about $35,000 and we’re not going to stop until we get there.”Last week, local law enforcement raised $2,500 as part of its Tip a Cop fundraiser. Guest speaker Dr. Jill Showe said law enforcement plays a vital role in raising funds for the Special Olympics, but the final result comes from a unified effort of the entire community.“This torch run began in 1981 with one man running in Kansas,” Showe said. “Look where we are today. Every single state participates. Think about it. Someday, somebody could be standing in front of an audience referring to a Warrenton resident that decided to stand up for people with disabilities. It could happen.“It could also happen that other city officials could call upon our city to learn how we as a community worked together as we help those with disabilities conquer great things.”The state Special Olympics games will take place in Springfield May 20-22.“You won’t find a better group of athletes, who are more determined, have a better time and enjoy their accomplishments every day,” Showe said. “The Missouri Special Olympic athletes, partners and coaches are all amazing individuals. I am proud to say that I have been involved as an educator, an administrator and a parent and it has been a life-changing experience.”

Above, Warrenton Police Department Sgt. Chase Ledbetter holds the Special Olympics torch high as he completes the last leg of the run Wednesday, May 11. Jimmy Potts Photos.