Law enforcement officers serve selflessly every day to keep our communities safe places to live, work, and play. In partnership with Special Olympics Missouri, law enforcement officers are participating in the 30th Anniversary Law Enforcement Torch Run across our state.
Each year, more than 2,000 officers carry the torch on a relay through the state. The culmination of this incredible journey will take place at our State Summer Games in Springfield on May 20. The final torch will be handed off in celebration of 30 years and the constant light that Special Olympics athletes give through their inner and outer strength.
This beautiful symbol of unity brings together communities and individuals of different backgrounds and abilities to celebrate the best in each of us. We cherish the relationships that the Torch Run builds each year. Thank you to all of our law enforcement officers for your bravery every day in protecting us, and thank you for all your efforts in support of Special Olympics Missouri.
30 years – one decade at a time
(First in a three–part series)
1986: Ralph Biele was a patrolman with the Missouri State Highway Patrol trying to think of a way to raise money for Special Olympics. In 1984 and 1985, there was an annual “Missouri Run for Special Olympics.” For two years, about 100 runners raised about $4,500. He thought, “How can we make this bigger?” He knew he had the support of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who was integral from the beginning. They provided everything from financial donations from employees and photography support, to runners and support vehicles.
Watch Ralph describe the early days.
It wasn’t that it didn’t raise money – but they were working really hard and not getting very far. Ralph knew that in order to make it happen, he needed to get a more broad-based support. He approached the Missouri Police Chiefs Association about SOMO and growing the support from law enforcement. They voted in 1986 to make Special Olympics Missouri part of the Association’s efforts, and gave birth to the Law Enforcement Torch Run. The next five years hovered right around $40,000!
The first 5 years of LETR: runners, agencies, gross $
1986: 87, 35, $15,000
1987: 135, 40, $33,000
1988: 116, 40, $42,000
1989: 143, 42, $40,000
1990: 145, 44, $38,146
History was captured in the spring edition of the Patrol News annually. Page 7 reported the results of the 5th annual run (1990), stating 44 police agencies participated and raised $40,000. Employees were encouraged to donate and “set an example” for others to follow. The MSHP was leading from the beginning.
During the seventh year, T-shirt sales were introduced and the Torch Run fundraising efforts expanded beyond the run itself. The idea was for agencies to host their own fundraising events and donate the proceeds to Special Olympics. These funds were literally brought to the site of the State Summer Games each year, held at Fort Leonard Wood. The Ramada Inn was the site of the pre-game meal, “fried fish and all of the trimmings,” hosted by Lou and Shirley Prentiss, retired Commanding General of the Fort. This was a long-running tradition. Even though runners didn’t like the idea of running (after the meal) the nearly 5 miles to the main gate, they still did it! The Army Military Police accepted the torch at the gate, and as a group, they proceeded to the site of the Opening Ceremony.
Committee Chair / Agency
1986 – 1990 Mel Fisher and Ralph Biele, Mo. State Highway Patrol
1991-1992 Chief Robert Scheetz and Dave Heath, St. Louis Metro PD
1993 – 1994 Chief Mike Snavely, Rolla PD
1994 – 1996 Chief Clarence Harmon and Sgt. Rich Banahan, St. Louis Metro PD
Colonel Ron Battelle and Lt. David Pudlowski, St. Louis County PD
In 1994, a phenomenon happened that got everyone really excited. Officers from 81 different agencies raised more than $100,000 for the first time! The announcement brought shouts of exclamation and joy when $124,392 was announced! T-shirt sales soared to over 4,800 shirts. 1995 rounded out our first decade with an awesome increase to $207,885. More than 10,000 T-shirts were sold!