Special Olympics athletes, local law enforcement agencies carry ‘Flame of Hope’ through Topeka

Law enforcement officers said the experience means as much to them as it does for the athletes.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 10:54 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The ‘Flame of Hope’ travels 1600 miles from all corners of Kansas to the state Summer Games in Wichita.

Several local law enforcement agencies helped carry the Special Olympics Kansas ‘Flame of Hope’ through Downtown Topeka Wednesday.

‘We are very fortunate here in Topeka that we have a lot of local agencies that participate. Today we had officers from ABC, the Highway Patrol, the Sheriff’s Office, the Police department, and the District Attorney’s office. So locally we have a great turnout, hundreds of athletes show up and it was a good morning,” said Ashley Previty, Shawnee County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Those who took part in the law enforcement torch run say it’s a meaningful moment for everyone involved.

“Special Olympics is very important. As law enforcement, we are the guardians of the flame. We carry it, and the athletes love the interaction between officers and athletes,” Previty said.

“The smiles from our athletes and from the agencies and officers is important. It tells you how much it means to each of them. Especially here in Topeka, there’s such a great relationship between our athletes and the local law enforcement agencies,” said Brent Kaiser, development & sports coordinator for Special Olympics Kansas.

The athletes said they love seeing the community show its support.

“It was fun, this is like my fourth or fifth time doing it, and it was fun seeing all the community out taking pictures,” said Harley Rich, Special Olympics athlete.

Special Olympics officials said events like this help make the athletes feel included.

“The reason its important is because we’re always pushing for inclusion, right? We’re always pushing for our athletes to be included in every aspect of our life... and we want to try to continue to find ways to do that, and that’s what our organization does. Our organization really pushes hard to include everybody, each and every individual with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Kaiser.

Law enforcement officers said the experience means as much to them as it does for the athletes.

We probably get more than we ever give,” said Previty.

The final leg of the torch run will go from Wichita City Hall to the opening ceremony of the Summer Games this weekend at Maize South High School.