WINTER HAVEN — Dozens of law enforcement officers, volunteers and local Special Olympics athletes stopped traffic in downtown Winter Haven May 3 — and for good reason, too.

The Polk County leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Florida rolled down U.S. 17 that morning, starting at the Northgate Plaza and following a police escort south to Cypress Gardens Boulevard. There, the participants turned east and ended up in the parking lot of the Chain of Lakes Complex.

Each year, the Flame of Hope traverses the state, covering countless thousands of miles. County-by-county, the torch is carried by local and state law enforcement officers all the way to the Opening Ceremony of Special Olympics Florida’s annual State Summer Games.

The Torch Run takes place nationwide and traces its origin to Kansas in 1981.

This year, those games will take place May 17-18 at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista.

The Florida Law Enforcement Torch Run is the largest annual public relations and fund-raising event for Special Olympics Florida.

Funds are generated through the sale of the Torch Run t-shirts and hats, and through various local fundraising events. Though the run has passed, those interested can still support Special Olympics Florida and local law enforcement agency by purchasing this year’s Law Enforcement Torch Run commemorative t-shirt or hat.

For more information on Special Olympics in Polk County, visit specialolympicsflorida.org/polk/.

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