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Runners celebrate another successful event ending at the Pacific Regional Training Centre Tuesday.












f you said Special Olympics Torch Run athletes could run circles around everyone in Chilliwack you'd be right. On Tuesday, a group of supporters and police officers took a jog from Sardis Senior Secondary ending at the Pacific Regional training Centre (PRTC) on Keith Wilson.

Each year, the Law Enforcement Torch Relay (LETR), consisting of local cops and Special Olympics BC (SOBC) athletes, take to Sardis streets carrying a torch. The Run brings awareness to the sport and helps raise funds for local athletic programs. According to an RCMP representative speaking to participants at the PRTC where the relay ended, the runs have gerneratedd around $20 million over the years for BC athletes.

The LETR is about abilities. This is one event where no one is being clocked. It's just a leisurely jog around Sardis with a full police escort.


A runner holds the torch at PRTC. Below, walkers, a big part of the LETR, gathered in the Save On Foods parking lot.

For just under an hour's time, athletes get noticed. They feel like the most famous Chilliwack residents for the day. They are. It's all about them. For one day it's an opportunity to demonstrate to the community that there's no obstacles to being one of the world's best athletes in their respective sports. There's no path of least resistance for these athletes. They're out there training unabated every day.

This year a couple of dozen red clad students from Chigo, China, who are halfway through a four-month visit, laughed and cheered along on the jog.

"Since 1980, Special Olympics BC has provided high-quality, year round sports programs for athletes around the province with the goal of providing individuals with intellectual disabilities the opportunities to enrich their lives and celebrate personal achievement through positive sport experiences," said Mike Rail, spokesperson for the RCMP Upper Fraser Valley Regional District.

Runners near the end of the LETR at the PRTC. Below, Special Olympian Pat Johnson.

"Officers running in this year抯 LETR, scheduled for June 5th, will be accompanied by Chaplain Angus Haggarty. A local LETR organizer Chaplain Haggarty has provided spiritual support to officers and staff of the Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment (UFVRD) over the past 3 years. Chaplain Haggarty抯 experience includes missionary work in Uganda and Nigeria dating back to the mid 1970抯. During one mission in Uganda Chaplain Haggarty was briefly held captive by rebels," explained Rail.

揟his experience caused me to be more thankful for my life and family, says Chaplain Haggarty. 揕ETR offers me the chance to give back to the community by contributing to this valuable effort.

揥e are proud to support Special Olympics athletes in our community. The Law Enforcement Torch Run commenced at 11:00 a.m. from Sardis Secondary School for those who choose to run the 3 kilometre route while others, who would rather walk, departed from Save-On-Foods in Sardis. The event finished at the PRTC, said Constable Annelisse Reinheimer of Chilliwack RCMP prior to the run iteself.

Burnaby resident Special Olympian Pat Johnson is an amazing 54-year-old. His specialty is running and he made the trip out to Chilliwack for the event. He's busy with three similar events: White Rock; Burnaby and Surrey. He comes out each year for the Chilliwack LETR. He works part-time as a stock person at Home Depot and at Burnaby Steakhouse.

Students from China happily took part in the run Tuesday.

Johnson's specialty is the  10,000 meter run.

"That's 25 times around the track, about 10km," he told The Voice Tuesday.

He says he'll be running in the Special Olympics at the next games in an elderly class.

"That's in four more years. I didn't get picked this time," he said. "I have to have two jobs just to get by until then," he says.

In December 2010, Ryan Kuester swimmer was the first provincial competitor to swim away with two silver medals and a bronze. Kuester was never pretentious in his thoughts about being selected for the international team.

By the time the Nationals rolled around in Ontario, and even as Kuester reeled in win after win, he still didn't think he was going to be selected for international competition.

When he was selected for international competition he and his coach Jacques Lemieux could hardly believe what they were hearing.

As an exceptional Chilliwack resident, Keuster was invited to City Hall and Mayor Sharon Gaetz presented him with a certificate in celebration of his feat and said the city was very proud of his accomplishments in the water.

Joanne Bunnin Special Olympics Power Lifter won three gold medals at the 2010 games.

"We recognize your outstanding achievement. Congratulations, keep working hard and all the best to you," she said.

Also in that same year, athlete power lifter Joanne Bunnin, almost need a truck to haul back her three gold medals at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles.

According to the Special Olympics website, "sporting events occur frequently throughout the year. In 2009, for example, there were more than 44,000 competitions around the world, an average of 121 a day."

For more information on upcoming events and how you can become involved or to donate, visit the Chilliwack Special Olympics website:
www.specialolympics.bc.ca/local/sobc-chilliwack or the national site: www.specialolympics.org

For more information on how the LETR works with SOBC, visit www.specialolympics.ca/ways-give/law-enforcement-torch-runr

and www.specialolympics.bc.ca/ways-give/law-enforcement-torch-run/upcoming-events





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