I’ve been in law enforcement 27 years, starting with the Harrisonburg Police Department and the last 14 serving as Sheriff of Rockingham County and the City of Harrisonburg. My first involvement with Special Olympics Virginia was in 1986, when my Chief assigned me the job. I collected a few donations, sold a few T-shirts and got some other officers to run our part of the Torch Run, but, I must admit, my heart wasn’t in it.
The next year I had the same assignment, but the Chief suggested I travel to Richmond for the Summer Games. I took my camera (mostly to prove I was really there and not playing golf) and was standing off by myself (in uniform) snapping pictures as the different teams marched around the track. As the team from Suffolk paraded by, one young athlete broke line and started walking in my direction. I watched her climb over the track barrier and proceed up 20 rows of seats, heading straight toward me. When she got to my row she simply put her arms around my waist and stated “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” She turned and ran back to her team.
From that moment, I realized the impact Special Olympics could have in someone’s life. I continued heading up my police department’s run, but did it with much more zest.
In 1996, I took the Office of Sheriff and continued with the run. One of the things I enjoy doing in my off time is bicycling, so in 1998 I decided to ride for Special Olympics in a fundraising effort. I rode from Harrisonburg to Virginia Beach (250 miles, 2+ days) and raised a little more than $3,000. I did this for another seven years and in the end, we had 15 riders making the trip. During those eight years, we raised more than $50,000.
I have served as Regional Director five times and I am honored to serve as State Director of the Torch Run this year. My goal is to help raise awareness amongst citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia about this most worthy organization. I want people to know that Special Olympics is not just a once a year event, but that it provides year-round activities for intellectually disabled people of all ages.
Thousands of Law Enforcement Officers from around the world have adopted Special Olympics as one of the ways to give back to the communities they serve. Not just because it’s a good thing to do, but because of the positive affect that it has on so many lives, including their own. I’m simply one of those officers.