Orange PD involves the community in Special Olympics Torch Run

By Lou Ponsi

The Orange Police Department’s Law Enforcement Torch Run continues to distinguish itself as a special and popular community event.

The OPD is among 12 Orange County law enforcement agencies, and among more than 200 agencies throughout Southern California, that carries the torch during a portion of the nearly 1,500 miles through 200 Southern California communities.

Members of the Orange PD SWAT team run down Chapman Avenue as they approach Plaza Square Park in Orange during the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Southern California.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Code enforcement officer Michelle Echeverria, who has organized Orange PD’s segment for the past 15 years, has enlisted participation from community partners, giving a true community vibe to the city’s 4-mile leg, which begins at Main Place Mall and finishes at Hart Park.

Joining Orange PD runners as they started out on Thursday, May 31, were members of the SWAT team, the FBI and the Orange Fire Department, along with recruits from the Golden West Criminal Justice Training Center and the OC Dolphin Aquatics team.

Katie Chrastka proudly holds up the Special Olympics torch after accepting it from Santa Ana PD as she and members of the Orange PD get ready to run the torch from MainPlace Mall to Hart Park in Orange.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“It’s been fun to see it grow,” Echeverria said.

Numbering about 50 strong, the runners made a stop at CHOC Children’s, where they brought ice cream and created crafts with the young patients.

McGruff the Crime Dog was on hand and police stickers were given out to the kids.

Police cadets perform pushups in front of CHOC Children’s hospital in Orange before continuing their Special Olympics torch run to Hart Park.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“It’s all about the kids,” Echeverria said. “The staff loves it, too.”

The runners winded through town, did a lap around the circle in downtown Orange and retired the torch for the night after arriving at Hart Park, where the runners cooled down with more ice cream.

Kids stand in front of CHOC Children’s as they watch police cadets perform pushups in front of the hospital in Orange before continuing their Special Olympics torch run to Hart Park.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

On June 8, the torch makes its final stop at Cal State Long Beach for the Special Olympics Summer Games, June 9-10. More than 34,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities will participate.

Along with events such as Tip a Cop and the Plane Pull, the Torch Run serves as a fundraiser for the Special Olympics Southern California.

“We get to do something good,” Echeverria said. “The joy it brings the athletes … I love it.”

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Special Olympics Athlete Nicholas Laguna runs with the torch as he and the Orange PD team make their way past Plaza Square Park in Orange.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Members of the Orange PD SWAT team run with Special Olympics athletes down Chapman Avenue as they approach Plaza Square Park in Orange during the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Southern California.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Special Olympics Athlete Nicholas Laguna runs with the torch as he and the Orange PD team make their way past Plaza Square Park in Orange.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange Police Chief Thomas Kisela stands with Special Olympics Athlete Nicholas Laguna as he holds the torch and Special Olympics flag at Hart Park at the end of Orange’s part in the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange Police Chief Thomas Kisela, second from left in back, Congressman Lou Correa, kneeling right, Police cadets, Special Olympics athletes and members of the Orange PD torch run team gather at Hart Park in Orange after completing their part of the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Congressman Lou Correa greets Katie Chrastka and other Special Olympics athletes at Hart Park during the conclusion of the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Runners for the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run gather at MainPlace Mall as Santa Ana PD hands the torch and Special Olympic’s flag off to the Orange PD.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC