Big Island police host kick-off event for Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics
The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Hawai‘i is more than just a run.
It is a year-round fundraiser that culminates at the Special Olympics Hawai‘i Summer Games, with the final leg running into the opening ceremonies. More than 2,500 law enforcement personnel from federal, military, state, county and local agencies throughout the state participate, with legs on the Big Island, Kaua‘i, Maui and O‘ahu.
The Hawai‘i Police Department on March 22 hosted its first Law Enforcement Torch Run Kickoff at U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area, with more than a dozen supporting agencies in attendance.
“This was the most epic kickoff,” said Heather Dansdill, East Hawai‘i area director for Special Olympics Hawai‘i and an Army veteran who has trained at Pōhakuloa in the past. “We’re super excited to have all of the law enforcement agencies as well as all the military involved.”
Along with the Police Department, other agencies that attended the event included Hawai‘i Community Correctional Center, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Pōhakuloa Training Area Police Department.
This was the first time all participating agencies gathered in one place to provide information about the two Torch Runs planned on the Big Island. This year also marks Pōhakuloa’s first time participating in the runs.
“Pōhakuloa Training Area is excited to be part of this awareness campaign alongside so many of our community partners to support Hawai‘i Special Olympics athletes,” said Pōhakuloa Commander Lt. Col. Kevin Cronin. “We plan on organizing a team of soldiers to run in the event, and I’m looking forward to it!”
The Law Enforcement Torch Run is aimed at raising awareness for people with intellectual disabilities. The Police Department is sponsoring two runs this year: April 23 in Kailua-Kona and April 29 in Hilo.
Hawai‘i Police Department Chief Moszkowicz has been involved with Law Enforcement Torch Run for 10 years in various capacities, from carrying the torch to being the event’s statewide director.
“It’s a great opportunity, not only to participate in the run, but to interact with athletes,” Moszkowicz said, adding that Special Olympics provides an opportunity for law enforcement agencies, military and the community to give back and support people with disabilities “who are members of the community, right along us.”
The Hawai‘i Police Department hosts several fundraisers throughout the year, such as Cop on Top and Tip a Cop, to raise awareness and support Special Olympics athletes and coaches. Dansdill said all of the proceeds go to the Big Island athletes and volunteers to pay for items including travel expenses, uniforms and coach clinics.
One of those athletes is Kyle Fujihara, a member of the Special Olympics East Hawai‘i track and field team. He started competing in 2010 while in high school. Now, after an eight-year pause because of COVID and other factors, Fujihara is excited to re-engage with friends and work with new coaches.
“Being in Special Olympics has made a huge impact in my life,” Fujihara said.
For more information and to register for one or both of the Big Island Torch Run events, contact Hawai‘i County Law Enforcement Torch Run coordinator Sgt. Jason Grouns via email at [email protected].
“If you attend one of our events, you will probably never stop attending them,” Dansdill said. “It’s one of the most wholesome, happy, positive events you can partake in.”
Special Olympics Hawai‘i was established in 1968 and serves more than 4,700 athletes and partners throughout the state. For more information, click here.