Hope’s — and Holland’s — first-ever community torch run on behalf of Special Olympics Michigan is happening on Wednesday, Sept. 13, through the efforts of two Campus Safety officers.
Jeff Vander Kooy and Scott Evans have taken the lead in organizing the 2.6-mile run, which will begin at the DeVos Fieldhouse at 10 a.m. and finish at Ray and Sue Smith Stadium. And there’s still time to sign on.
The event is being held as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) campaign, which was established on behalf of the Special Olympics in 1981 in Kansas. Grass-roots programs now take place around the world, with activities including community runs such as the Sept. 13 Holland/Hope event, long-distance relays that might span hundreds of miles, a variety of other awareness-building and fund-raising efforts, and connecting with Special Olympics initiatives such as the Summer and Winter Games.
“Scott and I have participated in several torch run events, and are excited to have a chance to bring a community run to Holland and Hope,” said Vander Kooy, who became involved in the program in 2015 while still working for Michigan’s Department of Corrections. “It’s especially meaningful to us because we realized when we attended Michigan’s Special Olympics Summer Games in Mount Pleasant in 2016 that some of the athletes in the Ottawa County area work on campus. We want to show them that we support them.”
Although the Sept. 13 event is a run, it’s not a race. Carrying the Special Olympics torch with them, the participants will travel at a pace that allows everyone to stay together. Those who would feel more comfortable biking may bring their own transportation to ride instead.
Vander Kooy recognizes that the weekday-morning time frame isn’t ideal. This year’s run was scheduled in conjunction with the statewide program to complement a run in Grand Rapids later in the day. He hopes, though, that the Sept. 13 Holland run won’t be the last.
“We’d like to continue it in the future,” he said.
Registration is $25, and all who are interested in participating may register and learn more at firstgiving.com/miletr/. Registration will also take place on-site beginning at 9 a.m. on Sept. 13. Registration includes a t-shirt, although a limited number of shirts will be available during on-site registration.