The 19th Annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics is a state-wide relay by law enforcement agencies to get the Special Olympics torch from Northern New Jersey to the College of New Jersey, outside of Trenton, where the New Jersey Special Olympic trials are held.
West New York Police Officers, who had received the torch from North Bergen Police Officers at 67th Street and Bergenline Avenue, passed their torch to the Union City police officers at 49th Street and Bergenline Avenue at about 10:30 a.m. The Union City officers than ran down Bergenline Avenue and ran about 1 mile through the city to Fifth Street and Kennedy Boulevard, where a group of Jersey City police officers were waiting for them.
The final leg of the torch run will end at the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Special Olympics New Jersey Summer Games when an officer passes the torch to a Special Olympics athlete to light the cauldron, signifying the start of the games.
Every state in the United States takes part in a torch run to begin their state's Summer Games.
Last year, the Union City Police Department raised about $14,000, the fifth largest amount in the state, making them a medal sponsor, just $1,000 short of becoming a premier sponsor.
Although the department is still collecting money for this year's race, Detective Edward McGuire, who coordinates the event for Union City, said that the department had already raised more than $11,000 last week.
That amount includes a $1,000 donation from Rep. Robert Menendez's office and $2,500 from Paine Webber. McGuire, who said that the department has raised more than $100,000 since he began coordinating the event seven years ago, said that they began collecting money three months before the run.
"This is a community effort," said Sgt. William Peer, who was running in the race, about the members of the community who give their support. "We give a little sweat and they give us financial support."
The Union City Police Department also takes part in the Plane Pull in October, the Polar Plunge in February, and it volunteers at the Hudson and Bergen County swim meet at the Bruce D. Walter Recreation Center in April. "This at least gives us an incentive to work out a little before the run," said Sgt. William Peer. "For a lot of us, this is the only time we run."
West New York
This year, West New York had six runners in the torch run, an increase from the two runners who took part in the event last year.
Deputy Chief Tom O'Donnell and Captain John Santa Maria, who have been running in the event for the past 17 years, were joined by a few of the younger officers and one North Hudson Regional firefighter.
"We are happy to have the young guys with us this year," aid Deputy Chief Tom O'Donnell, who ran last year with Captain John Santa Maria.
Although the department only had a small amount of runners, they were able to raise more than $500, making them a gold sponsor.
West New York also participated in the Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics in Point Pleasant in February and has supported many other local organizations.
The town's police department participates in many other charitable events throughout the year, especially during Christmastime. They work with the Salvation Army to provide gifts for needy children, and sponsor local Little League baseball teams and grammar school walk-a-thons.
The department also raised close to $3,000 fort the North Hudson Emergency Services Charity Fund, which gave financial support to the Hudson County families that fell victim to the attacks on the World Trade Center. The fund also donated to the New York City Police and Firefighters Widows and Orphans fund.