Saturday, June 9, 2018 || By Shanel Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Police officers from area departments participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics on June 9. | Shanel Romain
On Saturday, police officers from Bellwood, Broadview, Maywood, Forest Park and Westchester ran more than four miles in the rain — from the Westchester Police Department in Westchester to Constitution Court in Forest Park — for a good cause.
The June 9 event was one leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. The annual run, which is open to all employees of police departments and their relatives, takes place nationwide and is designed to raise awareness and money for the Special Olympics movement.
“This is something special to me,” said Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey, a former firefighter and public safety director, during a speech he gave in Forest Park after the run.
“As much negative press as public servants get, this is something positive,” he added. “More people should be out to see this. Public servants, police officers and fire fighters actually sacrifice their lives and they give back to the community.”
Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey and Bellwood Police Chief Jimenez Allen in Forest Park after the Torch Run on June 9. | Shanel Romain
Harvey, along with Bellwood Police Chief Jimenez Allen, were among those who participated in the torch run. As the joggers from the law enforcement community ran along Roosevelt Road, they were accompanied by police vehicles and Special Olympic athletes.
“This was very very special to be involved in,” said Allen. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done this, but this is for a good cause. It’s wonderful to see the smile on the children’s faces.”
Westchester Police Chief Steven Stelter said that he wasn’t sure how much money the departments raised collectively (they were still collecting funds early Saturday afternoon), but he noted that departments across Illinois raised around $4.4 million last year from a multitude of torch runs put on around the state.
Area police officers and elected officials joined with Special Olympics athletes and other community members for the Saturday Torch Run. | J. Boston
“We do this because we want to do it and we want to give back,” Stelter said. “Our kids are everything in our communities, so we want to give them the tools to stay on the right path. This torch run shows our unity in every shape and form.”
For some rookie officers, such as Maywood officer Chris Fuqua and Forest Park officer, Zachary Calamus — both of whom joined the force less than a month ago — the event was a baptist of sorts into community policing.
“This is my first torch run,” Fuqua, a Maywood native and Proviso East High School alumnus, said. “It’s a great experience to be involved in. I did this something similar in college, so its great to do it again now that I’m on the force.”
Torch Run participants during the final stretch of the Saturday’s run. | J. Boston
“This shows that we support the community as much as we want the community to support us,” said Calamus.
Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone said that the Torch Run reflects the seamless working relationship that the participating police departments and villages have.
“This is what it’s all about,” he said. “This is the ending of the run, but it’s just the beginning of what will be in the future. Each of us mayors standing here today supports blue.” VFP
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