Neither rain or distance stopped Forest Park police and area departments from running from the Westchester Police Department to Constitution Court in Forest Park on June 9 to benefit Special Olympics.
Officers from Bellwood, Broadview, Maywood, Forest Park and Westchester ran more than four miles in the rain for the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. The annual run, which is open to all employees of police departments and their relatives, takes place nationwide and is designed to raise awareness and money for the Special Olympics movement.
Detective Mike O'Connor, who also serves as the crime-free multi-housing officer, said about 15 people participated in the run—including four Special Olympics athletes from Proviso Township—and about 50 came to the after-party at Doc Ryan's, which donated free pizza and beer. Forest Park police raised $710 in T-shirt sales through the event, and have raised more than $4,000 this year for the special needs advocacy organization, O'Connor said. He wasn't sure how much departments raised collectively through the event.
"We're providing money and help for a population that is typically excluded I think, and these are great people that do great things," he said.
As joggers ran along Roosevelt Road, they were accompanied by police vehicles and Special Olympic athletes from Proviso Township. O'Connor said officials from the Howard Mohr Community Center, Portillos and Riveredge Hospital all cheered on runners.
For some rookie police, such as Maywood officer Chris Fuqua and Forest Park officer Zachary Calamus — both of whom joined the force less than a month ago — the event was a baptism of sorts into community policing.
"This is my first torch run," said Fuqua, a Maywood native and Proviso East High School alumnus. "It's a great experience to be involved in. I did this something similar in college, so its great to do it again now that I'm on the force."
"This shows that we support the community as much as we want the community to support us," said Calamus.
Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone said that the Torch Run reflects the seamless working relationship between participating police departments and villages.
"This is what it's all about," he said. "This is the ending of the run, but it's just the beginning of what will be in the future. Each of us mayors standing here today supports blue."