For Lt. Chad Parker, his involvement in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics started when he was a military police officer in the Army.
Parker has continued his involvement at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, running in nearly every Torch Run since 1993.
Parker will lace up his sneakers once again on Wednesday, April 15, when the Collier County leg of the 26th annual Torch Run kicks off.
Parker, who oversees the General Crimes Bureau covering North Naples, East Naples and Everglades, will join dozens of other CCSO members who will put their best feet forward for this very important cause.
“The reason I do this is to raise awareness and to change people’s attitudes about people with intellectual disabilities,” said Parker.
Participants will meet at the Collier County Law Enforcement Memorial in front of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Building J at 7:15 a.m. The run will start following remarks by Sheriff Kevin J. Rambosk at 7:45 a.m.
Local Special Olympics athletes will join in the run, along with past Special Olympics athlete and now coach Michael Lynch, who has been running in the Torch Run for many years and who is expected to lead the first leg of this year’s run.
Runners from the Naples Police and Emergency Services Department and Marco Island Police Department are also invited to participate.
The runners will proceed to the city of Naples and then run up to the Lee County line, ending at around noon. There are several stops along the way and vehicles will be trailing the runners in case they need help. Water and snacks will be provided along the route.
The 15.2-mile run will end as CCSO members hand off the “Torch of Hope” at the Collier/Lee County line.
The focus of the local event is to bring awareness and support to Florida Special Olympics.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics is the movement’s largest grass-roots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle, raising $34 million for Special Olympics programs around the world in 2008, according to the Special Olympics’ Web site.
And for all of the Torch Runs he’s participated in, some may be surprised to learn that Lt. Parker, who typically runs twice a week, has never completed the full 15.2 miles.
Maybe this will be Parker’s year.
“The most I’ve run is eight and a half or nine miles,” he said. “I’d like to finish one; that’s my goal.”