Patrol Officer Derek Zumbahlen has participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run ever since he joined the Morris Police Department seven years ago.
The Torch Run, which began in 1986, is the largest fundraising vehicle for Special Olympics Illinois, and serves as a symbol of the games themselves.
“It’s important to me,” Zumbahlen said. “It’s important to all of us who participate. It’s a great event.”
On Thursday morning, he ran again as officers across the state passed the “Flame of Hope,” culminating when it is delivered to the Opening Ceremonies of the State Summer Games today in Normal.
“It’s great to see officers around the state participating in this,” Zumbahlen said. “They do it every year and everyone does a great job with it.”
The run is divided into 23 legs, which cover about 1,500 miles. Around 3,000 Illinois officers take part in the event.
The run began June 8 and the final leg will begin at noon today at the Tazewell County line near Normal.
The Morris officers ran leg 18, receiving the torch from Channahon officers and delivering it to Livingston County.
The Morris runners began in the HealthSmart parking lot and ran about a mile through downtown Morris.
Morris Police Chief Brent Dite said the Torch Run raises awareness of the games and shows solidarity with the athletes.
“The Torch Run is a big symbol,” Dite said. “It represents solidarity and unity and shows we’re all in this together.”
The Torch Run, Dite said, is an umbrella event covering numerous fundraisers held throughout the year.
The events include 5K races, polar plunges and the Cop on a Rooftop event, which was held in May.
Those events have helped make the Torch Run the largest year-round fundraising event for the games, raising close to $28 million in the 27 years since it’s been around.
“Year in and year out, it’s one of the best fundraisers for [Special Olympics Illinois],” Dite said.
Special Olympics Illinois provides opportunities for training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
The Summer Games runs Friday through Sunday at Illinois State University in Normal. The Opening Ceremonies start today at 8 p.m.