Cyclists and squad cars with blaring sirens paraded through Waupaca Thursday.
They were part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Wisconsin.
Special Olympics gives people with cognitive disabilities an opportunity to train and compete in athletic events.
With games slated for Friday and Saturday, June 9-10, the torch-lighting ceremony for the Special Olympics in Stevens Point will be held Thursday night.
Nearly 1,000 officers from across the state are participating in Torch Run activities that support the Special Olympics.
“Some are biking, some are walking, some are running,” said Nicci Sprangers, director of development for Special Olympics Wisconsin. “They are bringing the Flame of Hope through their communities.”
Waupaca Police Officer Tom Grant was among the Torch Run participants who gathered in Riverside Park in Waupaca shortly after 11 a.m., then started their parade at 1 p.m.
He biked to Waupaca from Riverside Park in New London.
“I’ve been doing this for six or seven years,” Grant said. “I just want to help out and do something I enjoy at the same time.”
Carey Towne-Christenson is the track coach for Waupaca’s Special Olympics team.
“Sports is always what I wanted to do,” Towne-Christenson said, noting that she played volleyball, basketball and softball as a student in Waupaca.
“Then, in my freshman year in high school, I blew out my knee,” she said.
She said she was unable to run or participate in sports ever again as a result of her injury.
“It was devastating,” Towne-Christenson said.
Initially, she did not volunteer to become a Special Olympics coach.
“I had a really bad attitude and my mom made me go,” she said.
After her first practice with the Special Olympics athletes, Towne-Christenson had a change of attitude.
“No matter what these athletes were going through, they were always positive,” she said. “I saw all these individuals overcoming their challenges and it put my own challenges into perspective.”
Towne-Christenson has been a Special Olympics coach since her freshman year in high school.
“They have inspired me,” she said. “We’re all here for a purpose.”