CRANBURY, NJ – For four of Cranbury's finest, Friday's choice of footwear is likely to be a little bit different.
As they prepare to run in the New Jersey Law Enforcement Torch Run, it's a safe bet that the four police officers participating will be greeting the dawn by lacing up their running shoes.
According to Officer Matthew Schneider, the mission of the torch run is “to bring awareness to the general public and raise funds to financially support the world-renowned Special Olympics NJ.”
Carried a distance of more than 1,000 miles throughout hundreds of communities statewide to The College of New Jersey in Ewing, the Special Olympics New Jersey “Flame of Hope” ignites the cauldron for the opening ceremonies for the Summer Games, according to the Special Olympics New Jersey website.
The opening ceremonies are scheduled to take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Lions Stadium on TCNJ's campus.
Cranbury police officers participate in SONJ LE Torch Run #15, Officer Schneider said, which is one of 28 separate runs.
The torch will be transferred from the Middlesex County Adult Corrections Center officers to Cranbury officers at Melrich Road, off of Route 130 South, according to Officer Schneider.
Cranbury's officers will then run the torch south on Route 130 to North Main Street and into the center of town.
Turning down Park Place East, they will next turn north onto Maplewood Avenue, followed by a turn east onto Half Acre Road.
According to Officer Schneider, the Cranbury officers usually pass the torch to the New Jersey State Police at the intersection of Route 130 and Half Acre Road, however, this year the state police are unable to participate.
The Cranbury officers will continue running the torch down Half Acre Road into Monroe Township, with the assistance of some MCACC officers, Officer Schneider said, passing the torch on to Monroe officers at a TD Ameritrade bank branch on Prospect Plains Road/Union Valley Road.
The Cranbury leg of the run is normally 3.1 miles, but this year has doubled to 6 miles, due to the NJSP's absence, according to Officer Schneider.
The Cranbury officers' portion of the run will take roughly an hour, beginning at 7:15 a.m., and will pass through the center of town between about 7:30 a.m. and 7:50 a.m., Officer Schneider said.
“My experience with the torch run, the SONJ, and all its events is priceless and almost indescribable,” he said. “Adjectives that come to mind to describe my experiences with my fellow law enforcement officers during the torch run and all other events (are) as follows: Genuine, proud, remarkable, overwhelmingly emotional, inspiring. Every Special Olympics NJ event has always placed a smile on my face and a rejuvenating spirit in my soul.”
Officer Schneider said that the Special Olympics NJ is personal for him because his sister Marie was an athlete for many years.
“Although she has passed on, her example of what the human spirit can endure and achieve will be eternally engrained in my heart and mind,” he said.
Cranbury Police officers have been participating in the torch run for nearly 30 years, according to Officer Schneider.
Started in 1984, the inaugural torch run passed through eight towns, covering 43 miles, and raised $7,000, according to the SONJ website. Today, more than $2 million is raised annually by more than 3,000 officers through local and statewide events, including the torch run.
Donations for the NJ Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of the SONJ can be made at Officer Schneider's personal Web page, at http://www.sonj.org/events/torch-run/runner/Ofc-Matthew-Schneider-707/2015/.