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Like the Olympic Games, the Special Olympics has its version of the Torch Run. The Torch run, known as The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, is an event coordinated by the Special Olympics and Law Enforcement officials. The aim of it is to help increase awareness and raise funds for the Special Olympics movement.
It all began in Wichita, Kansas (USA) during 1981. The local Police Chief Richard LaMunyon felt that the Special Olympics needed to receive more awareness and attention. He also saw how it was the perfect opportunity for the law enforcement community to get involved with the Special Olympics. Thus, he started The Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) to achieve these two goals. The program was quickly supported and recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and is officially known as the founder of Special Olympics Law enforcement Torch Run.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics is similar to the Olympic Torch run. However, unlike the Olympic Torch run which lasts around half and over most continents (until changes after protests about the 2008 Beijing Olympics Torch Run), the LETR begins one month before the Games and only in the hosting country. However, despite running only in one country, the torch team is an international group with people from all areas of the world. The group consist of law enforcement officials, special Olympic athletes, and support personnel. These individuals are known as the Guardians of the Flame. During the run, these Guardians bring the Flame of Hope through the towns and cities of the hosting country. Eventually, they bring the flame to the opening ceremony, just like in the Olympic Games.
Since its inception in 1981, the LETR has been a huge success. There have been over 142,000 volunteers from 48 different countries working with the program. The Torch Run has helped the Special Olympics raise more than $414 million, and has brought the Special Olympic message across the world. This grass-root organization is the largest grass-root fundraiser for the Special Olympics. In 2011 alone, it helped the Special Olympics raise $42.1 million.