The seventh annual OPP Guardians Run, part of the province-wide Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) for Special Olympics Ontario, will return to Orillia later this month.
Over the years the Torch Run has evolved and now encompasses a variety of unique events and has raised millions of dollars to support Special Olympians in their communities. All funds raised through LETR events help fund Special Olympics Ontario programs.
On Oct. 23, the region's marquee event will take place at OPP Headquarters in Orillia, says one of the event's volunteer provincial coordinators, Sarah Dereski.
“We promote inclusion, acceptance, and opportunities for those with intellectual disabilities in our community,” she said. “We do a lot of fundraisers for Special Olympics each year and the Guardians Run is one of them.”
Dereski says Special Olympics has become the charity of choice for law enforcement agencies worldwide.
“The athletes love engaging with our officers,” she said. “It’s a bond and connection that we have been able to make.”
Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dereski says supporting Special Olympics is more important than maybe ever before.
“It’s super important to get our athletes back on the playing field and into their communities,” she said. “We want to be able to provide the athletes with as many opportunities as we can.”
Dereski, who has been involved with the torch run for 10 years, is also a volunteer with Special Olympics in Dufferin County. She coaches bocce and basketball.
“You learn so much from the athletes,” she said. “They teach you so many valuable lessons in respect to having positive outlooks on life and having fun.”
A lot of times, Special Olympics athletes are what inspires and drives law enforcement officers to serve their communities, Dereski says.
“I can’t put into words how valuable it’s been for me,” she said. “I’ve made friendships that will last a lifetime, it’s been remarkable.”
This year’s fundraising goal for the LETR is $100,000. Funds will be raised through the $35 registration fee for the in-person or virtual version of the run. Individuals, businesses, and teams can also make a donation through drafting an athlete for $250, which helps the drafted athlete participate in sports programming in their community.
“It takes a village,” Dereski said. “Members of the community have been fantastic with sponsoring.”
To register for the 5- or 10-kilometre walk/run, click here. Registration is open until Oct. 18 and day-of-sign up will also be available at OPP Headquarters on the morning of Oct. 23.