Photos: Local students, educators & police gather for northern RI leg of Special Olympics Torch Run

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GLOCESTER – The annual Special Olympics Torch Run took off in style with Burrillville runners handing off the torch at the Chepachet Fire Station to a contingent of 15 Ponaganset Middle School runners and their teachers, accompanied by members of the Glocester Police Department, along with Councilor Walter Steere, who headed to Smithfield for the next leg.

Leading the middle school runners were middle school teachers Shannon Black and Molly Ubel, who have volunteered for the event for a number of years.

“This special ed event is close to my heart,” said Ubel, who has run a number of marathons, as well.

“It’s a great time with a great group of kids who are supporting something that is important,” added Black, a special education teacher.

The Glocester runners on their way on Putnam Pike heading to Smithfield. At far right is Mace LaFontaine carrying the torch. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

Glocester police also joined in the event, including Lt. Jeff Janison and Officer Bryan McConnell, both Burrillville natives.

“It’s a great way to come together to support these special athletes,” said Janison, who has done the Torch Run every year since he joined the force 24 years ago.

He added he would be attending the Special Olympics at the University of Rhode Island, which he has done on a regular basis over the years.

“I love to go and see the athletes at URI,” said Janison. “It is great to see the smiles on their faces. That’s what it is all about. It’s just great.”

For McConnell, a first year patrolman, it was a new experience, but one he was looking forward to. As a student at Burrillville High School, he volunteered to help with the unified volleyball team.

“I wanted to do it,” said McConnell. “I think it’s pretty cool, and I like the idea of supporting the Special Olympics.”

Runners from Burrillville finish their portion of the Torch Run as they jog down Main Street to the Chepachet Fire Station. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

The Burrillville/Glocester leg is one of five legs throughout the state. It departs from the Burrillville Police Station, and continues through Glocester, Smithfield, Johnston, North Providence and Providence. It was scheduled to end at the State House around noon.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is part of an international campaign for Special Olympics coordinated and managed by all divisions of law enforcement officers and officials throughout the world whose mission is to raise dollars and awareness of the Special Olympics Movement worldwide.

Glocester runners get ready to carry the torch from Chepachet to Smithfield. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

Special Olympics Rhode Island is the only state to include police, fire, corrections and justice as part of the event, providing significant financial and public awareness for Special Olympics Rhode Island. They also provide volunteer support to all Special Olympics Rhode Island area and state competitions by presenting medals to competing athletes.

At its most basic level, the Torch Run is an annual running event in which representatives from police, fire, corrections, and justice run the “Flame of Hope” throughout Rhode Island to the state Summer Games opening ceremonies at URI. Special Olympics Rhode Island took place from May 31 to June 2 and included more than 1,000 athletes from across the state who will compete in Unified soccer, track & field, powerlifting, bowling, swimming and soccer skills.

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