Not even the rain could extinguish the flame or dampen the excitement of the athletes who participated in the annual Alaska Law Enforcement Torch Run held Saturday morning.
More than 50 people gathered at the fundraiser event and race held at the Twin Lakes Park, which raised funds to support the athletes on the Special Olympics Alaska Juneau team.
According to Michelle Umbs, Saturday’s event raised around $15,000 for the 25 athletes on the team. In Juneau, the athletes can participate in bowling, basketball and swimming.
Umbs said the race is the only fundraiser event that is held each year for the team. Last year, the race brought in $7,100 in donations, all of which goes directly to the athletes to cover all expenses associated with being on the team, such as travel and practice venue rentals.
She said the $15,000 raised at this year’s event is the most she’s seen raised since getting involved with the event 21 years ago.
“This is one of the biggest turnouts we’ve ever had,” she said. “The importance of this is bringing awareness to the community. We want people in the community to understand we have this program going on and to get recognition out there so that there can be more athletes.”
Fu Bao Hartle, an athlete and spokesperson for the team, said the race is important as it raised awareness of the team and the athletes in Juneau. After the race, he said it was “hard but fun” and was happy to meet new friends.
Alaska State Trooper Sgt. and Alaska Peace Officers Association President Chris Russell said each year the event is held to not only highlight the athletes and their hard work but also raise funds to support them in continuing to compete in their sports.
“I think it’s just awesome,” he said. “We’re always trying to support the community, it’s always been about working with the community and supporting in whatever way we can.”
Juneau Police Department public information officer Erran Kalwara agreed and said it’s always a fun event.
“We’re here to help out in the community and it’s great to see everyone come out and enjoy the day rain or shine,” she said.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651)-528-1807.