Law enforcement entities throughout the state each year participate in special torch runs for Special Olympics of Missouri. Thirty-seven staff members represented the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center at Thursday’s run in Vandalia.

The event highlights not only law enforcement, but Special Olympics as well. This year’s Special Olympics activities were less certain, however, after an EF-3 tornado ripped through Jefferson City damaging the Special Olympics Training for Life Campus in the capital. A decision was made to cancel the 2019 games.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run started 32 years ago in Kansas and now takes place in all states and 42 countries. It raises more than $58 million annually, according to the Special Olympics website. Missouri hosts multiple runs. Approximately 150 agencies are participated in this year’s run.

Bill Morgan, a unit manager at the center, carried the torch in the final leg of the roughly 5.3-mile run.

“Someone put it in my hand and it encouraged me to give it my all,” he said about receiving the torch.

This is Morgan’s third year participating in the Law Enforcement Torch Run. He also is a coach for the competitive track club, Kids on the Run. Special Olympics is a way to look at others and recognize differences, he said.

“We’re all not born with the same type of advantages, so we just need to look at all of us as the same,” Morgan said. “No matter what creed, race, religion, whatever, we need to look at everybody the same.

The runners were escorted from their starting point in Farber at Missouri Route PP and U.S. Highway 54 by Cpl. Bruce McLaughlin of Missouri State Highway Patrol and Cpl. Derek Chism of Audrain County Sheriff Department.

The route took them on Highway 54 to Daniels Park in Vandalia, because it was a more visible to raise greater awareness about law enforcement and Special Olympics, said Ashleigh Schoneboom, the correctional center’s Special Olympics Committee chair. Previous years would have runners along Route PP.

“I think (Special Olympics) is a great organization to raise money for,” Schoneboom said.

The correctional facility is still taking donations, which it will then transfer to Special Olympics. She can be reached by calling (573) 594-6686 ext. 2640.