Torch run ignites bond between Special Olympians, law enforcement

Clark County event raises $1,500

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian breaking news reporter

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Lynnadele Schoeneberg beamed as she held gold torch in front of a group of about 50 runners.

Although she has been a Special Olympics athlete for more than 20 years, Schoeneberg said, last year was the first time she participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run.

“I get anxious … all that stuff they carry,” she said, her hands motioning around her waist, where police officers usually holster their guns and store their handcuffs.

But on Wednesday, amid officers, court staff, attorneys and other athletes, Schoeneberg looked anything but nervous.

“I’m actually comfortable running with them,” she said, adding that the officers she met last year are friendly faces this year. “I get to meet new people.”

Schoeneberg, 28, carried the torch at the beginning of an 11-mile route through Clark County for the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run. The event aims at raising money and awareness by carrying the “Flame of Hope” in support of the Special Olympics. The Clark County group raised more than $1,500 with the run.

The torch carried through Clark County was one of six in Washington that are set to converge Friday for the opening ceremonies of the Summer Games at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Lakewood.

Through the bouts of rain and sun Wednesday morning, runners passed the baton around the group before they ended the two-hour run. The mob of runners started at the Clark County Courthouse and finished at the Clark County Public Safety Complex near the Clark County Fairgrounds. A police motorcade traveled with the group, offering a ride for those who wanted a break.

Bill Blue, a detention officer for Clark County Juvenile Court, ran beside his 25-year-old son, Patrick, who is a Special Olympics athlete.

“(Patrick) has overcome a lot of things in his life. I’m very proud of him,” he said.

He said it is especially neat to be part of a law enforcement community that supports a group that includes his son.

“Who would be better to have them?” he asked, looking at his colleagues. “They were smiling all the way through.”

Krista Downey, 28, of Vancouver will be racing her bicycle in the Summer Games. Wearing a pink shirt, pink sequined hat and shaking pink and green pompoms, Downey yelled her support for her teammates at both the start of the run and at the finish line.

“When the cycling team comes passing by, I cheer them on with my pompoms,” she said, shaking them above her head.

At the end of the long run, Dennis Dole Jr., 16, of Camas carried the torch across the finish line, a feeling he described with one word: “amazing.”

“It’s really great, the support group cheering us on … running with your friends,” he said.

Events like these, he said, remind him: “I’m not the only one out there with a disability.”

Emily Gillespie: 360-735-4522; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops;emily.gillespie@columbian.com.