SPARTA, NJ – The annual Torch Run ran through Sparta on Friday October 9. The Sparta community joined more than 3000 officers across the state to welcome the “Flame of Hope” torch for the Special Olympics.
Students and family members from each of the Sparta School District's schools together with members of the Sparta High School varsity cross-country team, two Sparta Middle School physical education teachers joined members of the Sparta Police Department running for New Jersey Special Olympics.
Sparta was on one of 26 separate routes covering approximately 750 miles that saw the torch carried to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics New Jersey.
The annual event began in 1984, according to the Special Olympics website. Late Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Officer Steven Vitale was inspired to create the event after photographing the 1982 Special Olympics athletes. So impressed by the dedication and determination of the athletes, Vitale recruited other officers to volunteer for the games.
The first torch run to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics New Jersey followed a route from Liberty State Park in Jersey City to Rutgers Stadium in New Brunswick covering 43 miles and raising $7,000, according to Special Olympics.
Since then the Law Enforcement Torch Run has expanded raising more than $4 million annually through local and statewide events. In addition to the Torch Run, fundraising efforts include three Polar Bear Plunges, the Lincoln Tunnel Challenge 5K, the United Airlines Plane Pull and golf outings.