La Habra Police Special Olympics Torch Run gives athletes VIP treatment

By Lou Ponsi

More than 200 law enforcement agencies in Southern California, including roughly two-dozen in Orange County, participate each year in the Torch Run for the Special Olympics.

Every agency adds its own personal touch as they carry the torch through their community.

La Habra Police Explorers and officers approach police headquarters on Euclid Street during the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The La Habra Police Department gives its special athletes the VIP treatment. As La Habra Police Department runners jog through town, the athletes trail along in cars a la ticker tape parade.

Passing cars honk their approval and pedestrians cheer along the route.

La Habra Police Explorers get ready to run with officers.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“Our police are always stepping up to do special things for the community,” Councilman Jim Gomez said. “They live La Habra’s motto of, ‘A Caring Community’. It’s heartwarming to see everyone come out and support such a great cause.”

La Habra police dispatcher Alex Castillo ran the 3.5-mile route through the city for the fourth year in a row and this year had the honor of carrying the torch part of the way.

Officers and Explorers gather in front of the La Habra Police Department.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“It’s an honor to represent such a great cause,” Castillo said. “It’s a great way to do something for the community and with the community.”

The La Habra Police Department contingent took the torch from Brea Police Department runners at about 1:45 p.m. on June 1, on Lambert Road near Puente Street. They traveled west on Lambert Road to Harbor Boulevard and then turned north onto Harbor Boulevard and proceeded to Whittier Boulevard.

La Habra Police Explorers and officers approach police headquarters.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The team continued west along Whittier Boulevard to Euclid Street, then headed south to the police station, where a crowd greeted them with applause.

“It’s really nice that (La Habra Police Department) does this for them,” said 9-year-old Kyle Houghton, whose sister Lexi, 11, is a veteran Special Olympics swimmer. “I think it’s pretty fun to have them interact with people with special needs.”

La Habra Police Explorers and officers run along Euclid Street escorted by a long line of vehicles.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

More than 1,100 Southern California athletes with disabilities will compete for gold, silver, and bronze medals and ribbons in a variety of sports. Along with events such as Tip-a-Cop and the Plane Pull, the Torch Run serves as a fundraiser for Special Olympics Southern California.

The torch travels nearly 1,500 miles, winding through 200 Southern California communities before arriving at Cal State Long Beach on June 8 for the Special Olympics.

La Habra Police Explorers and officers run through the streets of La Habra.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC