Carrying the torch of compassion

Police run to raise funds for Special Olympics

Torch Run for the Special Olympics passed through Hudson County.
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Torch Run for the Special Olympics passed through Hudson County.

Students from local schools and public officials cheered on the runners as police officers and others jogged through Hudson County on June 7 as part of the 36th Law Enforcement Torch Run to raise funds for the special Olympics.

Every year, law enforcement officers in New Jersey carry the “Flame of Hope” throughout the Garden State to the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics New Jersey Summer Games, this year held in Trenton.

More than 3,000 law enforcement officers and supporters took part in the run.

The route featured 26 parts, with a few side runs in various parts of the state. The main run started at Bergenline Avenue and 91st Street in North Bergen, outside James J. Braddock Park, and went on for about 60 miles.

Officers from Jersey City, Secaucus, North Bergen, West New York, Hoboken, and other towns also took part in various fundraising events supporting Special Olympics programs.

In Secaucus, students from Clarendon and Huber Street elementary schools gathered along the sidewalk in support.

“Some of the Huber Street students even ran around the corner with the officers,” said Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli.

“Hudson County departments are usually among the top fundraisers in the state.”  — Sean Connors

“The runners went from Braddock Park to Secaucus Road and Kennedy Boulevard where the Jersey City police took over,” said Sean Connors, community relations liaison for the Hudson County Sheriff’s Department. “They went from there to Westside and Communipaw avenues, where the Hudson County Prosecutors’ officers took over.”

The prosecutor’s officers ran the next leg to Newark where the Newark police stepped in.

West New York and Hoboken police cars joined those of Jersey City and the Hudson County Sheriff’s Department to form an escort, closing side streets until the runners passed.

Connors said he’s been involved with the Special Olympics since 1992, when he was with the now-defunct Hudson County Police Department.

Each runner got commitments for donations for each mile he or she ran. Last year the run statewide raised more than $4.1 million.

Police officers use their own resources to raise money, asking corporations, businesses, and residents to sponsor their runs.

“Hudson County departments are usually among the top fundraisers in the state,” Connors said.

Escorts included patrol cars from West New York, Hoboken, North Bergen, the Hudson County Sheriff’s office, and the New Jersey State Police.

“We always want to give back,” Connors said. “During our daily struggle, police get to see those who are need, and this is part of the reason we feel the need to run.”

Hudson County sponsors other fundraisers as well, Connors said. “We have two events every year, a bowling tournament in February, and our Olympics in the first week of May.”

Schools collect cash

Wearing red shirts similar to those of the runners, students from Jersey City’s Middle School No. 7 waited on the sidewalk for the runners to pass.

The school raised $530. Members of the Junior National Honor Society raised another $350.

“The students raised this individually,” said Stephanie McCall, a teacher and adviser at MS. 7. “They either sought donations on their own or teamed up.”

Students held up handmade posters as the police officers passed.

“The students came in a half hour before school each day to work on these,” McCall said.

Alexander Martinez, an 8th grader at MS 7, said he was part of a group of students determined to help.

“This is a cause we want to support,” he said.

Aspiring to be an attorney, Martinez believes that actions such as this strengthen leadership and other skills useful in the law.

Jersey City Police Captain Patrick Sullivan said he’s been participating in this run for 15 years.

“We’ve been very successful,” he said, noting the importance of raising funds. “No donation is too small.”

Fundraising doesn’t stop with the run. He said people can always donate through SONJ.org.

For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com