SOMERVILLE, NJ – Hundreds of law enforcement officers from Somerset County will carry the “Flame of Hope” through several towns Friday to commemorate this weekend’s New Jersey Special Olympics Summer Games held at the College of New Jersey in Ewing Township.

Thousands of police officers and law enforcement personnel will participate statewide in the torch run, now in its 35th year.

Members of the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office and Somerville Police Department will gather in front of the Van Derveer School on Route 28 around 2:30 p.m., waiting for members of the Bridgewater Police and Somerset County Sheriff’s Office to pass off the torch which will be carried through Somerville and passed on to members of the Hillsborough Police Department on Route 206  and Dukes Parkway East.

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The torch that passed its way through Bridgewater, Somerville and Hillsborough began its journey early Friday in northern New Jersey with the New York/New Jersey Port Authority Police, Elizabeth Police and US Customs Officers, working its way south on several legs carried by officers from Roselle, Roselle Park, Cranford, Garwood, Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Plainfield, Dunellen, Middlesex, and Bound Brook.

Somerville Police cars will escort the pack of runners down Route 28, onto Gaston Avenue and down Main Street past the Somerset County Administration Building, where dozens of  county employees are expected to cheer them on

 They will continue their trek on to Route 206 south, veering off on the Dukes Parkway East exit where they met the Hillsborough Police contingent.

State Police cruisers will escort the Hillsborough Police runners along Route 206 until the team passes off to Montgomery Police.

More than 3,000 law enforcement officers throughout New Jersey shucked their uniforms and business suits for running shorts, t-shirts and sneakers to participate in the 34th annual Torch Run. A total of 26 legs will bee run throughout New Jersey Friday, totaling 750 miles.

The torch will eventually make its way to the College of New Jersey in Ewiong Township, where more than 2,500 athletes will gather for the opening ceremonies Friday night. A giant cauldron was lit by a torch to signal the opening of the New Jersey Special Olympics games. The athletes will compete in dozens of events  on Saturday and Sunday.

“Law enforcement officers pledge to serve and uphold the members of their community, so we feel it is our duty to serve the Special Olympics athletes of New Jersey,” said Chief Robert Belfiore, retired Deputy Chief of the Port Authority of NY/NJ and director of the New Jersey Torch Run.

“As a member of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, I always feel privileged to carry the torch,” he added. “This is our chance to become a champion for the cause, to show the members of our communities how talented our local Special Olympics athletes are.”

Each year the “Flame of Hope” run raises over $3 million for New Jersey Special Olympics.